One year ago from this past Saturday was the last time I saw The Original Big Man alive and well. He was in town to tape Thing 1 playing her fiddle at the Frozen River Film Festival.
This year, Big Man took Thing 1 by himself.
Our lives have changed drastically since that sunny January day. The decision to work elsewhere has not panned out as we had hoped, and so we are being forced to re-evaluate what makes a place your home.
We have been in this community, one I think of as mine, for 11 years. It was Big Man's job that brought us here and while he worked, I fought hard to find my place. With an eighteen month old bouncing on my hip, we strolled the Winona Farmer's Market on a sticky August day in that first summer we lived in Winona. We crossed paths with a co-worker's spouse and she stopped to say hello. I verbalized my uncertainty about how to meet people and tap into kid-friendly things since we had no family or friends in town. And for the first time ever, I would have no co-workers of my own as a newly minted full- time at-home mom. She looked a bit bit surprised and then smiled and said, "Oh, you'll find your way" and off she went to the next stall of tomatoes.
I found my way in Winona with little help.
I found ECFE. I found the book store. I found some of Big Man's co-workers who really did care. I found other moms. I found ECFE teachers who pulled me through postpartum depression. I found writers and cooks and readers and a book group. I found the YMCA. I found friends. I found writing. I found the local paper wanted to use my writing. I found causes who wanted to use my voice. I found mentors who wanted to watch me grow. I found out I wanted to grow.
But growing is not easy. It makes you re-consider everything you think you've known and forces you to ask difficult questions. It seems I will never be done growing.
All sorts of existential questions are floating through my brain....what is place? what is your place? are they related? what makes you belong? to what do you belong? If you have never had to move, it would rock your world to understand what it forces you to confront about how you see yourself and the world in which you live.
Home has always been a word that I have struggled with. I liked growing up in rural northwest Iowa, but that was my childhood home. And whether it wanted me or not and whether I wanted it to or not, Winona the place has eeked it's way into my heart and has become my home.
When you fight so much for something, it seems impossible to think of leaving it.
I can honestly say I do not know what our future holds.
But I have no doubts about Big Man. He is a loving and hilarious dad, a sweet and doting spouse, an attentive and caring physician. And I know how this turmoil, some self-inflicted and some completely unexpected, is knitting us closer together. It is causing us to re-evaluate what is place and what is home, what it means to be a good physician, what it means to be a writer, what it means to contribute to our world, what it means to be a family and what we want for our family as it grows older, we are thinking about what is enough, we are examining what we want to give to the world, and we are thinking about what we value most and if we are acting accordingly. These are all tough things, but they are good things.