My route to visit my friend in Oklahoma took me, incredibly enough, directly through my childhood hometown. We moved the summer before I began the eighth grade, and without any family in Marion, Iowa, there was no reason to go back and visit once we left. So I hadn’t been back in over fifteen years. Completely thrilled at the prospect of seeing “the old homestead,” I rerouted my trip a little and added an extra hour and a half to what was already a fifteen hour drive to eat at one of the best pizzerias I’ve ever been to (If you’re ever near Marion, make sure you stop by Zoey’s Pizzeria–their Chicago-style deep dish is absolutely amazing!) and drove wanderingly (and, in all probability, dangerously) around the streets to see what I remembered.
I remembered, as it turns out, a remarkable amount. I almost killed myself in a very Chinese traffic move of veering across three lanes of traffic in fifty feet to make a right turn when I realized I was right by my old subdivision. I drove up and down the streets, stopped and took pictures of our old house, and the tree that my mom planted 21 years ago when my little brother was born…needless to say, it’s huge now! While there were a lot more buildings, businesses had changed, but the neighborhood itself was remarkably the same. It was like we’d left just a few days ago, not 15 years. After I’d taken my pictures, and before the neighbors could call the police about some crazy woman, snapping pictures with her cellphone and giggling inexplicably, I headed out and got my deep dish pizza at Zoey’s, then made my way back onto the Interstate.
As the miles started whizzing by again, and I watched the landscape, no longer the rolling, Kelly-green hills that the past fifteen years have taught me to think of as “home”, but the vast, unending expanse of the Great Plains flash by my windows, I started wondering how different my life would have been if we’d never moved. If I had spent the entirety of my living memory calling one place “home.” If my root ran deep in this place that was now both nostalgic and incredibly foreign.
I have always had a wanderer’s soul. I have never felt a strong pull to a specific place. I have ties to people–to family, mostly, though on rare occasion, friends, as well. I have always dreamed of going far, exploring, learning new languages and cultures, seeing the places and things I’ve only ever read about in books. I have always dreamed of wings. To me, the idea of living in one place for generations, of living and dying in the same town, sounds horrible and cloistering.
But walking down memory lane, reliving old memories on the admittedly unexceptional streets of Marion, Iowa, I wondered if maybe there is merit in those roots, if living a small, but extraordinarily connected life has its own merits that I have missed in my quest to fly.
I think about my siblings, all of whom remain within an hour of my parents’ house, and I know that we are fundamentally different. They, more than I, am tied to the land where I spent my adolescence and they, their childhood. They have roots that are deeper than mine. For them to pick up and leave the way I did would be more difficult. The roots they would have to pull up would be significantly more painful.
Which is better? I don’t know. I think some of what I face in the next year is trying to balance the wings of my soul with that need for, and desire for roots, for ties. Trying to figure out how to marry two ideas that are, fundamentally, different and at odds. To make sense of roots when God has given you wings.