Tonight I'm homesick for western Nebraska. It hit me last night as we pulled off I-80 onto 680 that was surprisingly busy for 12:30 AM (we were driving home from a day trip to Grand Island)--Tom Waits crooned through my speakers as I navigated a web of construction and cars and made my way to the Maple Street exit. I was too tired to think much about being homesick last night. But as the sun crawled higher into the sky this afternoon while we spent the day lounging around, I realized just how much I miss western Nebraska. I miss the flat running routes, gravel roads, turning a 5 minute grocery trip into a 25 minute trip all because we ran into students or their parents. I miss open spaces, stars that pepper the black sky, the sleepy rooster down the street from our old house that crowed at 9 am on Saturdays, driving out to the lake just to dip our toes in it and enjoy the beauty. But mostly I miss the people. I miss my students--how open (mostly) they were to watching TED Talks and discussing current events and how they indulged me by halfway listening to my crazy rants about poetry and writing and being change agents. I miss my students' families--there were a few who really embraced us and made us feel valued as teachers. I miss my running partner--the BEST running partner--who got up at ungodly hours to run with me before school--who ran stupid distances with me and listened to me, truly listened to me and withheld all judgement. I miss Ryan and Tracy--two of the most down to earth people we've had the pleasure of meeting. I miss the few visits we took to their family's ranch seeing them in their element. I miss Bob and Shannon--staying up too late indulging in simple pleasures: talking, eating, and laughing--pleasures that are unfortunately rare in today's culture. I've never enjoyed myself so much as when I'm chatting with them. These two are the only people (besides our parents) who we've ever felt comfortable with enough to send a text asking, "What's for dinner?"
Up until recently, I've found it difficult to identify a place as "home." I lived in Crete for long enough to complete elementary school, Columbus from middle through high school, Kearney and Lincoln for college...none of these places ever really felt like home to me. Even Ogallala didn't begin to feel like home until the last two years we lived there. The moment we left, though, I realized Ogallala was home.