December 17, 2016 – March 14, 2017
We arrived in time for my birthday mid-December, and we stayed long enough to see the earliest spring flowers bloom. The daffodils, the fruit trees, the purple henpecked flowers that my Aunt Cheryl says mean that it’s almost time to start mowing the lawn again, and the service berries. My grandma tells me that when the service berries bloom, the cold ground has thawed enough to get all the coffins out of the barn from throughout the winter and finally bury them. Funeral service time – hence the name of the tree, service berry. We were here for a 68 degree Christmas Day with the front door propped open. We were here on more than one night cold enough to freeze some pipes. We were here for a rare, wonderful January snow day, and an 80 degree day in February when we got out our tank tops. We were here for a couple of nights of tornado watches, and lots of chances to hear the Wednesday noon tornado siren test. It rained on March 1st which locals claim means it will rain 15 days in March. This seemed to hold true, and meant a one day delay in our departure as we waited for the muddy hillside we parked on to dry out enough for our 2WD diesel to back up it successfully to hook up our trailer.
This season of our adventure – this 3 month period of having a “home base” at my parents house – we have begun referring to as Chapter 2. It’s been very different than what we now call Chapter 1, when we spent several months traveling the West Coast & Southwest US. Instead of constant new scenery, we’ve made ourselves comfortable in multiple people’s homes for days at a time. Instead of yet another evening spent packing lunches for national park exploration days, we’ve spent lots of time in conversations around tables cluttered with the aftermath of a delicious meal while kids play in the next room. Instead of experiencing life without the comforts of our community, we’ve spent nearly every single day surrounded by people that we love, hearing about lives and kids and schools and churches. We’ve played music and sung songs; we’ve borrowed jackets and heard new books at bedtime. We have visited grandparents in the nursing home and met the children of childhood friends. We’ve done a lot of things that you take for granted when you live near a lot of family, like go to the grocery store with Mimi and meet her coworkers. With access to Mimi’s kitchen we made things in the oven, even if they bake for a long time, without worrying about using up the propane. We washed things like rugs and quilts that are a pain at laundromats. With access to Pappy’s shop we fixed things that just needed a dab of super glue or JB weld or that one size of alan wrench that we don’t have.
The trips that we’ve taken to see friends and family from this home base have also been a real treasure. We’ve visited people that we’ve kept up with closely over the years, and others that we hadn’t spoken with since 2004. We’ve seen little vignettes into the way other families do life – how they make their coffee in the morning, how they put their kids to bed, the type of foods that they eat, and wifi passwords. These moments have been as long as 10 days, and as brief as a few hours. But getting to sit on the couches of friends, hearing about successes and failures and parenthood, and getting to spend even just a few hours inside these homes has been better than a thousand Facebook posts. Being almost constantly hosted by other people has been exhausting and sometimes frustrating, and I’m very ready to get back to life out in our RV. But it’s also been wonderful, and I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything.