Our first year of marriage found us miles away from home. A 15-hour drive and a tiny bank account left little opportunity to travel back to Nebraska. We missed Thanksgiving that year, Easter too. When my husband’s grandfather passed, our hearts ached to be with family but even that trip was too much. And when my nephew took his first and last breath only hours apart, we cried for my sister and longed to be closer to home.
But for all we missed in 2005, we didn’t miss Christmas. That year as we gathered around our family’s table, we knew our hearts belonged in Nebraska.
We moved home the following spring.
Life has changed in 10 years. Loved ones have passed and babies were born. Jobs are different and we’ve grown older (and hopefully wiser) in a decade. But we’ve stayed where we belong.
We love Nebraska. Tradition lives here. It’s simple living with good people. The snow falls in the winter and the sun shines in the summer. Our ancestors made their homes in the middle of these prairies. They found beauty here and we do too.
But can I let you in on a little secret? It’s one you likely know as well. As beautiful as this land can be, that’s not what keeps us here.
Our first year of marriage didn’t just take us from our home state, it took us to one of the largest cities in the United States. We were so young with little responsibilities; no kids, no mortgage, just dreams. My husband had a great job. We could have built a life down south and knowing my husband, he would have continued to climb the ladder to bigger dreams and bigger pay checks. Maybe we would be celebrating the holiday season in a high rise apartment among the glitz and glamour of a large city. Maybe we would have our student loans payed off by now and I wouldn’t be driving a car that smells like a dirty trash can. (OK, that could still be happening, regardless of circumstances.)
Maybe we’d be living a totally different life.
But as lovely as that dream sounds, it wasn’t ours. It didn’t give us the one thing our hearts so desperately needed.
Why do we stay in Nebraska? That’s easy. It’s my three older sisters and their families. It’s my husband’s only brother and his lovely wife and kids. It’s parents and aunts and uncles and in laws and cousins who all live within a three-hour drive.
Family has a way of making even the smallest towns seem grand. And life for us – in this state, in this community, with two, healthy little girls, a warm home, and an old black cat – seems more grand than ever before.
I hope this Christmas finds you surrounded with friends and family, who have that magical gift to help you always feel at home, too.
Wishing you and yours the merriest Christmas yet.