It’s been hard for me to come home from Eastern Europe. I leave one home that I rarely get to visit for another. I give up the adventure of travel for the drudgery of routine. I have to remind myself why I love (and why we chose) this place.
Places are like families to me. Your feelings about the place where you live are often complicated, just like your feelings about your family. Sometimes you need to remind yourself that you do love your family, and why.
There’s the home you’re born into. Urban or rural, flat or hilly, tropical or snowy, its geography is forever etched in your mind. Its stature becomes iconic, the place where you feel all is right with the world. You’re not blind to the problems; you know it’s not perfect. It may embarrass you as much as Uncle Bill does at Thanksgiving and you wish you could change some things about it.
But underneath it all, it’s home. It courses through your veins. When you’ve been away and you return, you feel the love the strongest. As you grow older, you’re willing to accept and even forgive the irritating issues. Your childhood home grows in stature as you grow in understanding.
Many of the important places in your life have an irregular fit. Like an in-law, you may be smitten from the start or your first reaction may be to wince.
You don’t choose your in-law. Or if you do have a say in the matter, you cast your vote for or against with more noble reasons than mere enjoyment in mind. This in-law is thrust upon you by someone’s else choice. Maybe you have to move for your job, for the sake of your children, or for education–but not because you want to.
Whatever brings you and the in-law together, you’re stuck with each other so you may as well try to get along. And so you search for good things to appreciate about the new place, and you end up finding that there’s good and bad in every place.
And then there’s the rare time in life when you get to adopt an entirely new place. You pick the new home for no reason other than that you like it. That’s how Steve and I ended up in western North Carolina.
As a young girl, stories of orphans captivated me. I loved the idea of adopting and being adopted. Choosing and being chosen. When you adopt, you say, “Of all the children in the world, I pick you!”
Steve and I adopted our hometown. We could’ve moved anywhere. There were no workplaces or schools dictating our decision, but that also meant we arrived without any ready-made circle of potential friends. While we lived in the Bay Area, we carefully listed the criteria for a new, more-affordable town. We came up with lots of possibilities, spread all over the country. Then we systematically eliminated them. North Carolina remained.
So we came to visit, zigzagging across the state. Many towns fit our criteria, but the chemistry was missing, that feeling of coming home. When we first saw Morganton, we knew. Our hearts and minds aligned. We chose our new hometown.
People ask if we moved here because we have roots. No, not at all. Does that sound random? I don’t think it was. Could God have orchestrated it all to fit in with his grand design?
Shortly after we moved here, I found out I do have local roots. For generations past, my ancestors lived in three towns encircling my own. They chose this place and immigrated here from Europe. They fought for this land, going back to the Revolutionary Way, and are buried here. And besides that, Steve and I both are proud to have Cherokee in our heritage.
We adopted our home. We chose it to love.
Of all the places in the world, we picked western North Carolina.
Or did we?