In a few days I’ll be headed to Ohio to visit my family to kick off the kids’ spring break. However, I’ve caught myself saying “I’m going home” a few times, which is an odd thing to say as Ohio hasn’t been home in a very long time. In the past 13 years I’ve lived in three other cities that are hundreds of miles away from Ohio. Eight of those 13 years have been spent living in our small town in New Jersey, which feels more than a blink to me. As much as I consider myself an Ohioan and Midwesterner, these years spent in NJ have worn me down and I’ve taught myself the local vernacular, mostly for my kids’ sake. I’ve trained myself to stop saying things like “pop” “suckers” or “tennis shoes” and instead I use the East Coast terminology: soda, lollipops, and sneakers, respectively, so that my kids can avoid the confusion and eventual teasing that could arise if they were to use these words.
New Jersey is my home and with my husband, we’ve made for a wonderful life here surrounded by fantastic friends and thankfully, in-laws that aren’t too far away at all. Yet, there is so much of me still left in Ohio, which is why I think I slip and refer to it as “home” when it’s so very clear that it’s not. In Ohio still is both sides of my family as well as a few close friends that knew me before kids, before marriage and chose to befriend me despite an awful bangs situation. As a single person, it felt somewhat glamorous to have moved away and live in big cities with a life so different from what I could have imagined growing up.
Then you have kids and they become an almighty equalizer. Big city, small town – it doesn’t matter. Your worries and exhaustion are all the same. The only difference being your proximity to a Target and green spaces. Once you have kids, the fact that a huge part of your “village” is far away becomes magnified in a way that breaks your heart a little bit. There are the milestones missed, the holidays you don’t make it back for, and even something much simpler like the inability to call your sister up and ask if she wants to meet you at the park for an impromptu playdate when the first signs of spring emerge after a long winter. The sadness of watching nephews grow up mostly through photos and the occasional FaceTime. The thought in the back of your mind that your parents will love their grandchildren simply because they are their grandchildren, but knowing that there isn’t the opportunity to get to really know them as the little people they are becoming and love them for that too.
I realize I’ve probably romanticized a life lived in close proximity to your family. I hear from friends whose weekends are always filled with some family event to attend or random obligation that has to be fulfilled. And holidays? Forget it. It’s nonstop shuttling from house to house because there are no excuses when you’re only a 20 minute car ride away. Although I miss a good raucous big family Christmas, there is something quite lovely about staying in your pajamas all day with no particular place to be.
It’s been over two years since I’ve been back to Ohio with the kids. AJR was Olivia’s age at the time of our last visit, which sort of blows my mind a little bit. The excuses as to why are plentiful: it’s expensive to purchase four airfares ; the 10-hour car ride sounds like hell on earth ; we are so caught up in the weeds of every day life that the days, weeks, months, and now years, seem to slip by so easily without us even recognizing that so much time has passed. Logistically, it’s a trip that requires a lot of planning and forethought. Something that can feel overwhelming when you factor in two young children.
But with a long spring break ahead of us, I decided it was time to go back. It will be an exhausting love-fest of a trip. A blur of four jam-packed days spent trying to squeeze in two years worth of quality time and memory making. Lots of family – close and extended who have seen our life lived out on social media but can count on two fingers the number of times they’ve met my children. Friends that don’t nearly get enough of my attention but responded so quickly and enthusiastically to my texts asking if we could get together.
While Ohio hasn’t been the place I’ve lived for a long long time, it feels like I am headed home. A home where I can visit the parts of my heart that remain there and always welcome me back without a shred of guilt for not coming back sooner.
Four generations in one photo! Definitely making sure we grab this again.