I spent my first 18 years growing up in a small town in the Sierra Nevada of California. We never moved and I never had to change schools (except from elementary to middle to high school, but never to a new area or district). I graduated with many of the kids I had gone to kindergarten with and could name all 158 of them on graduation day. I had many teachers who were parents of friends, friends of my parents, or church members, which meant I had to train myself to use "Mr. So and So" instead of "(First Name)". My parents were and are still married (37 years next February).
In other words, I come from a very stable background. And having lived in the same town on the same street means I grew to have a lot of very deeply rooted friendships--a depth that has often been hard to replicate, and a small town nearness that is almost impossible to repeat without living in the new place for 20 years. (Because, as you know if you've ever been an outsider in a small town, it takes at least 20 years for the "locals" to consider you to be local as well).
In many ways, that stability has been a huge blessing. I've been able to take risks in new settings because of the stability and consistency of home. There are other blessings too, but not as many that are relevant for this post. All of the above is a long entry into the true thrust of this piece. The piece that really matters today is that because of the deep roots of home in Bishop, it has been very hard for me to establish that same sense of security, stability, and "knownness" anywhere else that I have lived. "Community" can seem trivial after only a few months, when I come from a community of 18 years. The relationships, bonds, and history shared together, even after 4 years of college still pale in comparison to those that I've had since kindergarten, elementary school, or even junior or senior high school.
And over the years, because of all that, I've missed "home". I've missed that sense of belonging. I've missed relationships that are easy to fall into even after years apart because of the depth of sharing that took place before the absence. I've missed breathing in air that draws me into laughter or tears for all that it represents. I've missed having familiar sights that are amazingly gorgeous and unreplaceable; and for most of my life, I've felt like Bishop would be the only place that would ever hold that "homeness" for me again. (I've doubted it's repetition not just because of how amazing it is, but also because I knew that in an itinerant system there wouldn't be the time needed in one spot to establish a new sense of true home).
That is, until this week. Last weekend I was blessed to officiate at the wedding of one of my best friends--an honor and joy in and of itself (to be described later). And this week I've been able to be in Alabama with my "other" families. Two of my brother's best friends live in Alabama and after Christmases together they became my "other brothers". They aren't kin, per se, but they're as close as you can get. Now, a couple of weddings, and many of my seminary vacations spent with them, they are truly my home away from home. Once you add in my sister-in-law's family, who graced me with their presence, smiles, and stories today at lunch, it has truly felt like I've come home. I've seen the trees, ponds, and farms of Alabama that I miss so much. I've shared meals with family, and their friends who are also known. I've savored "soul food", and been drawn in by the knownness of it all. Despite the fact that I haven't seen most of them for more than two years, it feels like just a month or two has passed.
I never could have imagined finding a second home that truly matched the wholeness and knownness of Bishop, but it seems I have, and it is a wonderful blessing.