HOME

There’s no place like home.

Dorothy Gale

I have spent some time recently in my home town of Wichita, KS. I have not actually resided there since 1996, yet it still gives me a sense of home when I am there. I never had aspirations of leaving Kansas. Life was easy there and I had close friends and family around me. As new job opportunities came up, we took them and that took us away from home. We have moved more than we planned to over the years…that’s how life goes. But I have loved each new town we have spent time in. We have made many lifelong friends and had so many wonderful experiences because of those opportunities.

But there is just something about going home. There is a feeling of belonging. No matter how long I am away, I am welcomed back. The multiple homes I lived in over the years all belong to others now. Both of my parents and other family members are gone now too. But I still have my beloved in-laws, my brother and his family, and several cousins to connect with when I’m there.

I have spent time in my in-laws home for forty years now. When I think of home, that is where my mind immediately goes. So many memories come to mind when I pull into their driveway. I see reflections of the early years of visiting my boyfriend’s house, to a few years later bringing my babies over to see Grammy and Papa Buzz, to just recently introducing them to their great-grandchild. No matter the occasion, I’m always met at the door with love and acceptance. Which is usually followed by a cold drink and an amazing meal.

Home isn’t necessarily a place. It’s more of a feeling in your heart. Certain people and places give this to us. It’s an interesting meditation to ponder what home means to you. For me, home will always mean Kansas.

Some things that make me a Kansan:

  • I have a fascination with big thunderstorms that might produce tornados.
  • I start to feel claustrophobic if I can’t see the horizon.
  • It still feels strange to buy liquor at a grocery store, especially on a Sunday.
  • I have never lost the feeling of needing to use hairspray thanks to the ever present Kansas wind.
  • I say “hi” to everyone. Midwesterners are a friendly bunch.
  • Yes, I have attempted to tip a cow. I was unsuccessful.
  • I call them lightening bugs.
  • I say ar-KAN-sas River, not AR-kan-saw River.
  • I have come to the conclusion that mosquitos and humidity seem to work in tandem during Kansas summers.
  • I have a deep understanding of farm-to-table. The life of a farmer is not an easy one.
  • I feel a lot pride that the University of Kansas is the birthplace of basketball.
  • I hold close the memory of fried chicken dinner at Grandma’s house on Sunday afternoon.

Forever Friend

A friend is someone who knows all about you and loves you just the same.

I met my friend, Amy, my freshman year in college at the University of Kansas. My dad was helping me move into my dorm room and noticed a man he had gone to KU with moving his daughter into the same floor of the dorm. My dad said to me, you need to make a point of introducing yourself to Max Deterding’s daughter. I brushed him off at the time, more consumed with moving and not excited at my dad trying to make friends for me. Little did I know that her dad was having the same conversation with her.

We did eventually meet. And WOW, was she ever fun. She had come from a tiny town in Kansas and it was like she had been shot out of a cannon. She had been coming to KU for football and basketball games with her family her whole life and knew her way around. Which gave her a head start on where to go and what to do on any given day or night as the case might be. With this head start and her “zest for life” personality, there was never a dull moment with her around.

At the same time, she rarely missed a class. Not only was she book smart but intelligent in ways beyond her 18 years. She was who you went to with a problem or a question. If she didn’t know the answer, she knew someone who would. Yes, these are the days before google. She WAS our google.

We remained friends after our freshman year. We lived in different sororities and other living arrangements throughout our college years, but the friendship was sealed. My boyfriend and I introduced her to her future husband. Eventually, she married Mark and I married Rob and we spent much of our young married lives doing things as couples.

Through the years, we have supported each other through all that life has thrown our way. There have been some amazing highs and some tragic lows. Amy and Mark were the first friends to visit us each time we moved to a new city. We had the trip of a lifetime to Italy together several years ago. It was always easy with them. The kind of friends who know you through thick and thin. At some point, Amy started calling us forever friends. It was sort of a joke at the time given our ages, but it also rang true. We have been there for each other for so many years now.

Amy died recently after a valiant fight against brain cancer. She leaves behind family and friends that adore her and a brand new granddaughter that she just missed getting to meet. The very definition that life isn’t fair.

Today is her birthday and I am missing my forever friend. I’ll miss our phone chats and visits to each other. I’ll miss her laughter and wicked sense of humor. This forever friendship is now completely different. And feels so very one-sided. I hope to honor you by living life with zest. To love deeply, laugh often and support the loved ones you left behind. I love you forever, friend.