The One That’s a Love Letter to a Hometown

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Dear Reading,

We’ve been together just over two years, you and I. I go between “only two years?” and “already two years?” nearly every minute. And even though I’m leaving soon, a piece of my heart will always love you.

If my life was a movie, your part would be that scene when the girl takes her glasses off and realizes she’s beautiful. Or the scene where the underdog finally stands up to the bully. (In this analogy, the majority of my life is the scene in Napoleon Dynamite where the farmer mutters something about arrowheads in the hills, but I digress).

I came to you, dear Reading, confused and hurt and tired and lonely. I needed a safe place to figure out who I was, to learn how to love and be loved.  I needed to learn how to fit into myself, to stretch into my fingertips and toes and stop trying to keep up appearances.

That’s exactly what you gave me. In this tiny little one-horse (well, maybe 7. We have Amish people) town, I rented my first apartment. I bought too many vegetables, not enough meat, and all the wrong cleaning supplies. I cleaned the bathroom, made a lasagna, lit a candle and crowded new friends around the tiny wobbly table donated to me by a cousin. After my first official dinner party, I christened myself an adult.

I finished school, worked full time, paid bills and mostly failed at budgeting. I walked your small streets and got a library card that isn’t even laminated. You let me cry – oh, I’ve cried so much here – healing tears and joyful tears and tears of betrayal and guilt and loneliness. You hid me in your cornfields and by your tiny lakes when a years-long dream shattered.

You taught me to laugh, deep and long, until I cried all over again. You gave me friends within easy driving distance, confidantes and acquaintances alike. Late nights crammed in my tiny apartment, playing stupid games and talking about everything. Long walks with ice cream and thrift store runs and trips to the beach on cloudy days.

You watched me fall in love with Jesus all over again, deeper and newer than every before. You saw me worship in an old church on Sunday nights, surrounded by teenagers I would give a kidney for. I got baptized in that old church, declaring to a room of the aforementioned friends and teenagers that I was in, all in, with this God thing. You heard me whisper prayers just outside the door of an old barn, saw me sob at my grandmother’s grave after buying the things to make freezer jam, and sat patiently while I screamed and threw rocks from train tracks into a deep gully.

I fell in love, for real, for the first time while walking your streets and sitting in your diners. Mile loops from my apartment, past that house, hoping for a glimpse or a quick hello in the midst of my short bursts of what I called jogging but actual joggers would refer to as “slightly brisk walking.” Breaking my family’s texts-sent-in-a-month record, constantly smiling down at my phone. Making mix CDs and passing notes like middle schoolers. That first hug, while your stars winked down at me. Crossing back over your borders after the most perfect first date.

I’ve learned so many lessons, dear Reading, in the two short years I’ve been with you. People I haven’t seen in a long time tell me how happy I look. I introduce myself to people now; I’ve learned how to small talk (when the conditions are just right and the stars align).

There aren’t enough words to talk about how thankful I am for the years we’ve had together. They’ve been some of the most influential I’ve experienced thus far.

Even though I’m leaving, dear Reading, you will always be dear to me.

After all, you introduced me to truck pulls.

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