It was an innocent little thing. You know those “Facebook memories” that pop up and tell you what was going on in your life on this day seven years ago? I love looking at those and seeing what dumb thing I said or what cute picture I posted of my kids. A couple of weeks ago, the ones coming up were when we made the difficult decision to move to Louisiana from Tennessee, and I realized it had been five years. Suddenly, it all came rushing back like a tidal wave. I could feel every single emotion I felt then, remembered in detail the conversations that led to this point. And I was homesick.
Five and a half years ago, Nathan lost his job. I picked up a second job while he looked, but we still fell behind on our mortgage. We were able to catch up and get current, but not before our mortgage company began the (what we later found out was illegal) foreclosure process. We got a letter at the end of June that year informing us that we had to be out of our home by July 25th. July 2nd, I realized my period was a little late, so I took a pregnancy test. After having miscarried a few months before, I was shocked to find I was pregnant again. I walked into our bedroom about midnight with a positive pregnancy test and broke the news to Nathan. “I know this is just all kinds of bad timing, but we’re going to be happy about it.” A few weeks later, we packed up our little family and everything we could fit in our little car, said some heart-wrenching goodbyes to our dearest friends, and drove to Louisiana.
Facebook kept track of all my little updates: “Switching drivers at Ashland City” (Y’all, we switched drivers every two hours on this trip) “We just saw a double rainbow!” “Driving through Arkansas. We realize we both really hate Arkansas, but neither of us knows why” “Forty miles to Shreveport. Home stretch!” We tried to make it a fun adventure, traveling twelve hours with two toddlers. And it was fun, sort of.
We arrived with nothing. No home, no jobs, barely the clothes on our backs. And as hard as we tried, we stayed that way for quite awhile. I got further and further toward my due date, and Nathan still didn’t have a job. The market here wasn’t much better than there. I was six and seven months pregnant, working two retail jobs at Christmas. I missed a lot of moments with the boys. The four of us lived in one room at my in-laws house. It was a full house with us, their teenagers, and a few foster kids. Tempers were short at times, and I always have had a knack for putting my foot in my mouth. We felt like failures. It didn’t matter how hard we tried, life didn’t seem to be getting any better. In the first six months down here, Nathan applied for probably a hundred jobs and was hired as a temp with three. I had two jobs, but I couldn’t find a doctor who would accept me. Between us, we managed to mess up several family relationships. I wrecked my car the day after Christmas. And my sweet Malachi decided to Sharpie all over my mother in law’s brand new microfiber couch.
But at some point, I remembered a Matron of Honor speech I had given at my friend’s wedding a few years before. “Wherever you are together, you’ll be home.”
In five years, I think I was hoping we’d be more “on our feet” than we are. It’s been a hard road, marked with more rejection and failure, and a lot of tears. I was pretty sure we weren’t going to make it a few times. And who knows? We’ve learned the bottom is never really as low as you can get. But we have a home that keeps us safe, jobs that are secure for now. Our kids are in a school they love and are making friends and memories. Our church family is precious and supportive. We are finally able to support ourselves.
We’ve had to say more bittersweet goodbyes. And I expect that will never change. It will always hurt, but probably not so much as the first time. I didn’t want to come here. When people ask me what brought us down here from Tennessee (because no one would make that move by choice), I still answer “A series of unfortunate events.” But now, it’s where we are planted. It’s where my kids are growing up, where they are putting down roots. It’s where (some of) our family is. Most of all it’s where we are.
This is home, because we are here. Wherever we are, I’ll be home.
(This is seriously the only family picture we have that is anywhere close to recent.)