Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Memory Lane

When we took the first exit into Conway Saturday morning, I was lost.

New businesses, new restaurants, and more churches rose from places that used to be grass. Many areas felt unfamiliar, but that happens when you leave a growing town for seven years. We now toted kids instead of dorm room essentials through streets we traveled a thousand times. Once we made it to our friends' neighborhood, Owen spoke up.

"There are so many houses here." The sleepy southwest town we call home is the only place Owen has known, and the differences stuck out to him like a sore thumb.

When we saw familiar faces waiting at their front door, however, it was like time hadn't moved. We were right at home, and so were our kids. If there's one thing I miss about living in a town that can hold more than 5,000, it's our people. As the night wore on, we found ourselves around the kitchen table. The scene and the characters were the same, but the conversation was new. Between belly laughs over the memories that built us, a potty training conversation would pop up. After reliving the glory days, we talked kindergarten and swapped funny kid stories.

Every so often, we would watch an army of kids dart past us and exchange looks that said, "When did this happen!?" As much as time has preserved our friendship, it sure changed us.

While in Conway, we knew we had to drive down memory lane. Nathan grinned when we arrived at his first house. We pointed out his original day care and remembered the summer Saturday he made us parents. I showed my kids the corner building at the University of Central Arkansas where I fell deeper in love with writing and the parking lot where Jonathan proposed. I couldn't help but think about the current students whose stories are just starting. Which professor is changing a life today? Who else has gotten down on one knee on this campus? Where will they go? What will they do? Who will their children become?

After a whirlwind of memories, it was surreal to pull off the interstate and wind through the back roads home. Once we got the kids tucked in and the suit cases unloaded, Jonathan and I slipped into the hot tub to soak beneath the moon. In silence we looked across the land that stretches behind our house. We looked to the coop that held our hens. {Imagine if the Conway version of us knew we raised chickens??} We saw the barren garden waiting for spring. We saw sleepy cows in the neighboring pasture, brilliantly lit by the sky. Then we looked up.

I have vivid memories of my past in Conway and at UCA. I can tell you in detail every moment in that city that shaped my life. I can tell you where I sat in the classes that filled holes in the search for myself. I can also tell you that where I am now is my tiny place in the universe. I will always enjoy making new connections with people I love and showing my kids where we've been, but I will come home.

Visible from where we sat was the glow of Nora's night light in her window. It was such a strange feeling to compare where we started to the comfort of knowing our third child is safe in her bed.

I am thankful to Conway for setting the first chapters of our book, but I love where our story is headed.

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