As my regular readers know, I’m a citizen of more than one country, and I have moved around. A lot. It doesn’t take much for me to call a place home. It has often just been the location I’m resting my head for that evening, be it my actual residence, a family member’s home, a friend’s place, or even a hotel room. I’m always hard pressed to answer the question “What is your hometown?”
Then there is the concept of Home (with a capital “H”). The place that when you land or arrive after being away for a while, you exhale with an “ahhhh, home.” You feel centered, and back where you belong.
When we moved to Des Moines, I wasn’t sure, really, how long it would take (or if ever) it would feel like Home. We moved here for a number of reasons – the biggest one to be here for my husband’s elderly mother who had been ill for quite some time, and could no longer live on her own. No, it was not a case of waking up one morning and saying “We’ve got to live in Des Moines!” Rather, it was a case of realizing that time with an aging parent can run out quickly, and it’s something you can’t get back.
So far, the move has been a decision that we haven’t regretted for a moment. And I’m happy to report that Des Moines is starting to feel like home, in all senses. This occurred to me on a recent extended trip to stay with my side of the family in Ontario, Canada. Yes, there are quite a lot places that are a reasonable drive from Des Moines – another in the plus column making it an excellent home-base.
Although the drive can technically be done in one day, we break it into two to make it a bit easier on our toddler. One funny moment of realizing how much I already appreciate Des Moines and Iowa was on the drive out when we were stopping for lunch in the very busy outskirts of Chicago. The traffic (both cars and people) was similar to Bay Area standards, and in exasperation I said “I miss Iowa!!!” to which my husband had a chuckle.
But where it really got me feeling like Iowa is home was when we crossed the state line back into Iowa from Illinois. Sure, the geographical difference at the point where you’re going over the Mississippi (for the record, I got that spelling right on the first try, fully expecting the red-line of spell-checker) may be almost non-existent, but there is some kind of difference that I just can’t quite put my finger on. The sky was a bit bigger, the corn certainly taller, and just in general the space to breathe more deeply.
And then there is Des Moines. It sounds like a trite analogy, but Des Moines appears on the horizon like an oasis. A pretty skyline rising from fields of corn. A unique combination of both city and country, almost co-existing in one place.
In fact, I often joke when people ask me about living in Des Moines, that I didn’t quite expect to be living within the city limits, and yet literally have fields of corn at the end of our street. This little detail is something I truly love about living here, and I think it epitomizes an aspect that Des Moines natives may not appreciate or realize. You have the best of both worlds – a dynamic, vibrant city and the peacefulness offered by being so closely connected to the country around it.