there and back again: minnesota for thanksgiving and homesickness that doesn't fade

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We leave, we return, we leave again, and the lines I drew between home and not home begin to blur.

Before we flew home for Thanksgiving, I told Chris I was anxious. Big feelings make me anxious. What would it feel like to be in Minnesota again? Would it make Maryland more familiar? Or less? Would my heart break when I left, or does it get easier to hop from here to there? (A friend whose done this longer than me told me it never does.)

I cried when we landed at MSP. Actually, I cried when we entered northern airspace, and Chris pointed out I was crying over Wisconsin, but I teared up again when we circled low over the airport, and I recognized the world we were coming down to. Walking through the MSP terminal to baggage claim, I asked Chris if we could come home after just one year.

We’ve made no decisions—they’re not even on the table yet, but in my small voice, I needed to hear home is always an option. Maryland was never meant to be forever, but the question is what did we move out here for? And when will we have had enough of it that we’re ready to move home again?

When we talk about what home is, Chris and I fall on different sides of the track. He misses access to friends and family (and trust me, I do too), and he misses the familiarity of knowing the area (again, me too), but what he doesn’t have is achy clawing I do over being away.

When we landed, I had to stop myself from buckling. The air, the air, felt like home. For four days, I paused each time I stepped outside. You don’t know homesickness until you’ve sucked home-air like it’s your saving grace.

As much as I’ve missed my people, it’s been the intensity with which I miss Minnesota that’s surprised me. It’s what I was promised: that I’ll miss the water and the trees, but missing water and trees is more painful than I could have known. (Maryland’s got water and trees too.)

On Wednesday, I drove around the cities, and I named each city blocks. You know me, you know me, you know me. My sense of direction is the eternal joke, but there’s a difference between knowing where you and not knowing. Being back in Minnesota, I knew. These street hold my history.

Our visit back was four days, two short days and two full, structured around the holiday and buffeted by the promise that we’d be home longer at Christmas. We bought the tickets In September, when we were high on homesickness, and wondering how to make the long Maryland days move faster.

This season away is teaching me what everyone whose ever needed to build a home for themselves knows: That you create it wherever you are. It sounds like a Hallmark card, but it’s true: Home is where Chris and I are together. It only took a few days for our apartment in Maryland to become every bit the retreat that our apartment in St. Paul was. Now that I’ve hung Christmas decorations, we’re as anchored to what we know and love as we’ve ever been.

But still. Minnesota’s there like a specter, and a promise, and something else too profound and mysterious for me to yet name. It’s my home, and I’m not there, and that alone tilts the earth just a little bit.

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On Sunday night, I cried in the dark, and told Chris I didn’t want to return to work. It seemed like a concession to say to all this heartache “look, you’ve got a life here too.” A day of work and a trip to the grocery store, and I remembered that that yeah, we do live here now, and most days, that doesn’t make me blind with homegone sadness.

We’re back to holding Minnesota and Maryland in both hands. In August, I told myself my job was to observe and honor what I was feeling. Observe and honor, observe and honor. Decide nothing. There’s the right now, and there’s the what’s next, and there are the places we someday want to get to, but how?