Six years and approximately two and a half lives ago, Rob and I lived alone, together in Minneapolis.
I was so young but felt really incredibly grown up—I had just quit my full-time job and joined Rob in Minnesota, hoping to blog full-time and kind of doing it, but also picking up temp jobs wherever I could. I felt like I was finally writing for a living, even though a lot of the work I did was answering phones at a receptionist desk and entering numbers into spreadsheets for random offices in the greater Twin Cities area.
We had a small but cozy apartment in Bloomington, just down the road from Mall of America but close enough that we were in Minneapolis or St. Paul almost every Friday for a happy hour, spread out on a breezy patio or snuggled up to a dimly-lit high top by the bar, depending on the time of year and the weather.
We had no dog, no daughter, and not very much money; but we had each other and we were planning our wedding and working and sleeping in on the weekends whenever we wanted to. I cooked a lot and took pictures of everything and wrote every day. I bundled up as winter approached and ran, missing my girlfriends that I used to run with back home in Virginia. At that time, Virginia still felt like home—it was the only home I had ever had. I grew up and went to school and graduated and started working in Roanoke, Farmville, Charlottesville, then Roanoke again.
And then winter came to Minneapolis and it snowed all the time and I made hot tea or chocolate in the kitchen almost every night and drank way too much coffee every morning. We got used to driving in the snow and went snowshoeing exactly one time and ventured out onto frozen lakes, feeling as small as ever with the thick ice below our boots and all around us. We slurped spicy Pad Thai noodles and steamy pho while the snow fell down silently outside.
Knowing you’re only going to be somewhere for a short time is a special kind of gift, especially for people like us who have moved quite a bit over the years. We put down very shallow roots and never got too attached to our routine in Minnesota. But at the same time we loved it so much—the food, the coffee and beer, the people, even the intense winter weather. Living in the midwest was never our longterm plan so we went all in on experiencing the area—from music festivals in Wisconsin to a show in Chicago, Juicy Lucys and poutine and art museums and brunch spots and writing dates at a favorite coffee shop with my friend Daci.
My mom and brother came to visit a few times and we showed them around our favorite spots, and I always missed them too much before I even dropped them off at the airport. I’d say goodbye, all bundled up as I climbed back into the car, Bon Iver playing on the radio as I drove back home or maybe stopped for a coffee somewhere in the city.
Summer came around again and we started planning our move. Rob was a contractor and we decided to take a position in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was close to “home” and so many friends and lots of family. California was never on our radar, which is so weird to look back on now since we’ve lived in the Bay Area now longer than Minneapolis and Charlotte combined.
We never really knew what our life was going to look like, or where we were going to settle down for good. But we could imagine it.
We unpacked our things in Charlotte and missed Minnesota—we went back to visit, planning to be there at least once a year to see friends and visit our favorite spots. And we did go back, but before we knew it four years had passed and we were living on the west coast with a toddler and a dog, having to drive three hours to Tahoe to see snow, and in the meantime wearing boots and a hat on 55 degree afternoons.
So last weekend we went to Minneapolis. My mom met us there (we’ve always hypothetically planned to do this, but it really is a great halfway point between the coasts) and we rented a Northeast apartment on Airbnb and made a giant list of things we needed to eat before we left. And it felt…familiar. Comfortable. Nostalgic. But not like we were home again, the way it did the first time we visited after moving away.
On Friday we spent the afternoon at my friend Daci’s house, and as we sat on the floor watching our kids play together, she laughed and said “what did we used to do before this?” People always told me I wouldn’t be able to remember my life before kids, and while that’s not entirely true, it is kind of true—at least right now, in this phase of toddlerhood and amended itineraries because the Uptown Minneapolis bar we used to go to for happy hour doesn’t have high chairs.
My mom’s flight was earlier than ours on Sunday, so like the old days we got into the car and headed to the airport, just the two of us; full from a long weekend of too much food, sad to be saying goodbye again so soon. Snow flurries swirled across the dashboard and Bon Iver played on the radio and after I pulled her bag out from the trunk and gave her one more hug until Christmas, I drove away as usual, not to our empty Bloomington apartment this time but to the Airbnb where Rob and Sophie were waiting, warm and sleepy in their pajamas on the couch under a blanket. I stopped for two more cappuccinos and a muffin, feeling endlessly grateful but also homesick in that deep and confusing way—melancholy for a place that maybe doesn’t even exist anymore. We have had so many homes that sometimes I don’t know which one it is that I miss the most. Usually it’s a combination of all of them, and this time it included our current one—the big kitchen with a greenhouse window, my new gym that I slip away to at 6 AM three times a week, the Pure Barre studio where I teach and have made such wonderful friends, Sophie’s weekly play and music class.
A few hours later we were landing in California and after getting into our own car, driving to pick up the dog on the way to our house and get back into the swing of our weekly routine, I looked out the window at the bay and thought, “it’s really good to be home.”
We still don’t really know what our life is going to look like, or where we are going to settle down for good. I miss Minneapolis in a way that is different from the way I miss Charlotte and parts of Virginia. And one day maybe I’ll miss California as well, as we settle into a forever home somewhere else. It’s hard to tell.