Today’s post comes from a brief conversation I had with one of my fellow parishioners when I attended church on Sunday. In an effort to maintain social distancing at church, seats are reserved in advance. Standard procedure now includes visiting the check-in table to receive a seat number before being led there by volunteer ushers. Despite being new to the parish as of last year, I’m starting to recognize a few familiar faces. The woman who usually works the table, checking names and scribbling seat numbers on a pad of sticky notes, has started to remember me as well. She always gives an enthusiastic hello when she spots me in line before sending me off to my seat.
However, this particular Sunday was a little different. This time when I stepped up to the table she gave a great sigh and slapped both palms flat to the table, allowing her pen and sticky notes to clatter away, looking for all the world like a doctor about to deliver a diagnosis. She looked up at me very seriously and said “Sofia… We’ve decided to be friends with you. It’s just so hard to meet young people, especially now with COVID.”
What on Earth do you say to that? I wanted to jump up and down and clap my hands together. I wanted to run around the table and give her a hug. I still don’t know who “we” is but I’m in! Where do I sign? As it was, I only had time to provide my short but emphatic concurrence before following the usher to my seat.
It was the kindest, most heartwarming thing she possibly could have said to a nearly total stranger. Clearly someone at church had noticed my regular attendance as well as the fact that I never had company. As I was led to my seat I couldn’t keep from smiling. Someone in the parish had been thinking about me and, what’s more, they wanted to be my friend despite knowing almost nothing about me. The next day she connected with me on social media, thereby opening a line of communication beyond the church check-in table.
When someone comes along and publicly, loudly, proudly declares themself your friend, you pay attention. It certainly is not an offer I intend to pass up.
People like to say that home is where the family is. This is absolutely true. However, after relocating three states away from my own family, I’ve come to a revised definition. Home is where the pretty hand towels are. It’s in the Jan Brett details that remind you of loved ones who are far away. Here is my list of details that turned my one bedroom apartment into a home.
Hearts – My mom has dozens of these scattered throughout my childhood home. I tried to number them once but had to start over twice because I lost count in my search for each of my mom’s hidden hearts.
Nutcrackers – It’s the little touches of Christmas that make a place feel warm and cozy all year long. Even when the holiday decorations have been put away; the ornaments carefully tucked into bubble wrap sleeves and returned to their boxes, my nutcracker remains. He keeps a constant watch over my tiny living room, lighting my home with a painted lantern held aloft in his left hand. His snowy white hair and beard are welcome reminders of a time when jolly old saint Nick will visit again.
Books – Specifically, the books that my dad read to my sister and I as kids. The Lord of the Rings was our favorite. I proudly display a tattered paperback set on my little shelf. It’s the same set that my sister took with her to Alaska one summer when she worked on a fishing boat. These books have been places and are the same copies I turn to when I need to go home. Even now, all grown up, the characters still speak to me through my dad’s voice.
Scrapbooks – Just like the living portraits at Hogwarts, I can see my friends and family shuffling into position in front of the camera before someone snapped the photos. All the people I love and all the ones I used to be wave and smile up at me from glossy pages.
Twinkle Lights – I believe the official term is ‘fairy lights’ but in our house we always made sure to switch on the ‘twinkle lights’ that sparkled atop the old upright piano when the Sun dipped behind the mountains in the evenings.
Rocks – Over the years, my family has collected buckets of smoothed discs and pebbles from distant shores and mountain tops. It’s become a tradition to send each other small stones from our travels, wherever we might go. I love to tell people where all my rocks came from. They are pieces of home wrapped in good memories.
What details do you cherish in your home? Share in the comments.
There’s something vaguely European about this place and the people in it. Maybe it’s the rich history and strong Polish influence lingering generations later. Whatever the reason, it hit me the very first day I moved to Valpo and I’ve been noticing it ever since. The towering willowy trees and their emerald foliage remind me of the ones I saw in Germany on a family vacation when I was ten. It rains like it did there too, frequently and in great torrents, beating the Earth with a super soaker. The cobbled streets near the plaza downtown are like the many old town squares where my family lunched.
There’s also something foreign about the people that live here. They’re all better dressed than the people back home for one thing. Coloradans are notoriously casual and it’s one of the only things that I never could quite understand about Rocky Mountain folks. Here in Indiana you can see ladies in heels and men in polos for no other reason than a leisurely afternoon stroll through the streets of downtown. Maybe it’s the proximity to Chicago city life but ripped jeans and ratty t-shirts are not the fashion here. And as Fall rolls in, everyone happily dons their coziest knitwear and polishes their sensible leather boots to ward off the chill in the air.
I packed my life into a U-Haul and went for an 18 hour drive with my dad. Thankfully he volunteered to be behind the wheel for the duration of our trip halfway across the country to get me settled into my new life as a metallurgical engineer in a steel mill on the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Watching the Colorado Rocky Mountains shrink in the rearview mirror, I couldn’t picture what my life would look like when we pulled up to my apartment in Valparaiso, Indiana and in all the days that came after.
Born and raised in Colorado and having loved every minute of it, I never wanted to be anywhere else. I cherish memories of family camping trips to Utah and spring breaks spent on a sandy Mexico beach but we always came home to Colorado, one of my favorite parts of every vacation. Everywhere I went, there was always family a short 20 minutes away and stony peaks to summit if I ever needed to release any pent up energy. For all of these reasons, I never saw myself leaving.
During my time in Colorado, there was always a plan; a next step to take and more homework to finish in order to one day graduate with marketable skills that would help to land me a job doing something I enjoy. I was so focused on earning the degree and the job offer that I hardly gave a thought to what the rest of my life would look like once I had them. We hit the road and headed East and for the first time in my life, there was no plan beyond the metallurgical position I was due to begin the following week. I had absolutely no idea what was in store for me in the year that followed.
People like to talk about traveling out into the world to find themselves. I never bought into this way of thinking. Everything I ever needed was just a few minutes away. Why would I need to find myself? Moving to Indiana didn’t teach me who I am. I’ve always known that. But I do think the change of scenery was the fresh start that I needed to begin owning it. I’m still singing the same tunes I’ve always sung but the volume has been cranked up to 100 percent.
After a year in Indiana, I am more me today than I’ve ever been. I’m doing things that previously went on the back burner because there were more pressing uses of my time than checking off a few bucket list items. I’m constantly learning new skills and trying new things and I’ve made so many friends in my Indiana home.
One of the best things about growing up in Glenwood Springs was the sense of community present in every interaction. It was a place where everyone knew everyone. You couldn’t go to the grocery store without bumping into a neighbor. Backyard gatherings were full of the smiling, vaguely familiar faces of grown ups holding their hands three feet above the ground in front of them and saying things like ‘I met you when you were this tall.’ Everyone had a story about bottling homemade wine with my grandpa or going to school with my dad.
Although I haven’t been here nearly long enough to develop such long lasting roots, the sense of community those roots imparted has followed me to Valpo. I am once again finding myself caught up in conversations after running into coworkers at the grocery store. Sometimes when I go out for dinner with friends I’ll catch one of the ladies from my shooting league waving an enthusiastic hello from across the restaurant. Bumping into friendly faces reminds me so much of where I came from and everything I’ve achieved since then. It never fails to make my day a little brighter.
Nothing makes you feel more grown up than successfully filling out your taxes or registering to vote in a new state. Here are some strategies and activities to consider to be a fully functioning adult when relocating to a new place.
Find a doctor – If you relocated for a job, you will likely have some sort of benefits package that goes with it. Make sure to look up what this covers and find a local doctor that takes your insurance
Find a dentist – This is similar to the doctor. Find one that is close to you and make an appointment for a check up. There’s nothing more grown up than scheduling an appointment before you need one.
Stay up on car maintenance – If you are a gear head that likes to fix your own cars, this may not apply to you but if you’re like me, any sudden weird squeaks or ticks your car makes are bound to put you on edge. Take care of it before there’s a problem.
Take a trip to the local DMV – If you’re moving to a new state and plan to stay a while, you will need to renew your driver’s license and car registration. This is also a good time to make sure your voter registration is all sorted out.
Start your taxes early – This goes for everyone, even if you’re not relocating. You’ll never regret finishing your taxes well ahead of the deadline. I tend to run into a few questions during this process so I like to leave plenty of time for working out any kinks.
These are a few items on my list of good adulting techniques but I’m always learning new ones. Please share any of your tips for success in new places in the comments below.