"What's that?" Joy asks, pointing out the window.
"That's the college where Oma goes to school, and where Mamma went."
"Oh. And what's that?"
"That's the library. And the fire station."
"He's at work. Did you know that Mamma used to work there, too? And this is where Mamma and Grandpa used to come have lunch a lot, when we worked together."
And around the other corner, there is the college where Papa, and Auntie Lizzie and Uncle David all went to school, and graduated the same year. Here is the movie theater where Mamma and Papa had their first date. The church where we got married. Here is the bank where Mamma cashed her first paycheck, then after a few years opened her first checking account. This is the bridge I used to shiver my way across on my way to work from school when it was too cold for my car to start (and yes, the irony of walking across town in weather too ferocious for my car to run in has never been lost on me).
These are the streets I know like I know my own name. This is the town where, if I don't know you, I know someone in your family, and if you don't know me, you know my father, or my grandfather. You or someone in your family probably went to school with one of my seven aunts and uncles.
This is home, and I love being able to share it with the littles every time we come back to visit my parents, especially now that Joy's old enough to ask questions and understand.
But it is bittersweet, too. We have moved five times in seven years of marriage, and will move again soon. And again. I accepted that when Carl and I chose to pursue a different path, a path that requires more schooling for him, and in different places, and maybe, in ten years, a chance to settle down and put in roots.
But it won't be here. And my girls will never have that sense of family history in a place that I do.
And maybe that's not such a bad thing after all. Maybe it's good for them to start fresh, to make their own way, unencumbered by family baggage or expectations.
And at least I know that we will always have this to come back to. This land where my roots are sunk deep, it is a part of them, whether they know it or not, because it is a part of me, and I am part of them.
Maybe, just maybe, we can carry some of home with us wherever we go, instead of needing to come to it. I hope so, anyway.
We are home for the Annual Memory Walk this year, in honor of my grandmother who has suffered from Alzheimer's more years than anyone deserves. Memories, especially family memories, always hang heavily on me around this event. And so the homecoming is even more poignant than usual, especially with Joy starting to ask more questions about family and history.