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I have called several places home in my life, and they all hold a special place in my heart, from the coastal town of Wisconsin where I grew up, to the unforgiving wilderness of Arizona and the surreal swampy streets of NOLA. , to our precious Chippewa Valley, and finally to my current home in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When the lilac blossomed, during my increasingly frequent walks along the river, I found myself lingering on the concept of home, and the places and people that shaped me along the way.

When I picture my childhood home, it’s always Christmas, and not just because upstairs there was a combination of Packer’s green carpet and crimson walls. My family threw a legendary holiday party where people would gather annually to catch up on brandy with a bit of eggnog, their clucks flying over my friends and me singing hymns. When I want to feel close to the person I was when I called this place my home, I put on some Nat King Cole, close my eyes, and conjure up the special joy that comes from cramming 50 people into a house where a tree would fit. during the whole year.

In my shorter houses, I also rely on sensory memory to get back. My stay in New Orleans was short, but the experience was lasting. It’s a city with an aggressively beating heart and a sense of community that runs as deep as the crevices in its streets, which hooked me from the start. When I want to go back to the woman I became when I roamed these streets, I blew up Preservation’s little jazz hall and imagined myself stumbling into Line Two on a warm Tuesday instead of being locked in an endless Midwest winter.

I spent the first few years of my life in Arizona, but I also had a tough few months there right after graduating from UWEC. I brought with me a broken heart that I hoped knowing my family could heal. Although I don’t want to return to the woman I was in those dark days of confusion and longing, I will always find a place and time to return to the home that is my grandmother Jackie. Her house sounds like ice mixed with an ever-filling glass of Coca-Cola, the clicking of a morning crossword pen, and the most wonderful laugh in the world, which I still enjoy on the phone as often as I can.

When it comes to running towards something, my mind wanders to Chippewa Valley. Countless aspects of Eau Claire feel right at home: every summer afternoon I walk through the same dusty dive bar just to see who was there and stay to chat and drink Nalgene with my favorite bartender no matter what; precious Saturdays spent wandering the farmers’ market, wallowing by the river with a book, and shopping all my friends for long conversations about nothing that always reminded me why I was here; and, most importantly, people. I have found so many homes from so many people in the valley and I will never stop being grateful for what she has given me.

As much as O Claire would love to fall in love all over again, and even though I spent most of my adult life calling her home, I finally felt the shift. The other day, when I caught up with a friend on one of the first real spring afternoons of the season, I was told, “I want to die here, but I’m not ready to die yet.” We sat on a bench next to Bde Maka Ska, about a mile from their old Uptown apartment, where we spent many pleasant evenings together before they moved to Portland, Oregon. The way they talked about their enduring love for Minneapolis, combined with the belief that they didn’t belong there anymore, resonated deeply with my relationship with Eau Claire.

Now I feel like I’m no longer returning to my home, but rather reconnecting with the people and places that taught me my inherent ability to create and discover new things wherever I go. After nearly three years, I finally made it to Minneapolis, despite grumbling about city life and how I often felt longing for the familiar Chippewa River and how she hugged me. Like many who have found a home in a place they no longer live, it is easy to yearn for the person we were or the way our life was when we lived there, but there are so many opportunities to find and build the right home. . Where you are. Eau Claire is no longer the place where I lay my head, but that doesn’t mean I won’t always think of it as one of the many places where pieces of my heart have found a home. Maybe one day, when I’m ready, I’ll lie down there for the last time.

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