This past weekend, I had the chance to return to a place I once considered home: Kansas City.
By home, I mean it was the place where I became the person I am now.
I lived in Kansas City from the ages of 24 to 34. For those 10 years, I was single, except 2 months. I arrived with a man (Mike) and left with a man (Colin).
I lived in three apartments and one house. I had two cats, one car, 3 Latvian roommates, earned one Master’s Degree, $10,000 in student loans realizing that going to school to become a teacher was not for me, served at least 5,000 meals, had only one guy climb up the side of my house via the downspout, and made myself a real, true urban family.
10 Reasons to Go Back Again
1. It’s the same.
The house where I lived still stood, the same yellow paint that Colin and I paid for before we sold it, which eventually helped sell it. The same mismatched garage, the same, deep lovely porch and swing.
So much of what we saw was the same — even the bend in Westport Road which I felt like a leaping heartbeat. I had no trouble navigating the old streets I’d left behind.
2. The people feel like comfy old shoes.
We met Jeannie and Deron at the zoo, where they were doing the “chase the toddler” new parent game. But they felt the same… being with them was a good as it had been when they arrived at our flat in London, as good as it was landing on the tarmac safely in OPKS, as good as when Jeannie was doing her laundry in my basement back in grad school.
3. Because BBQ
What comes with geography is also the food culture, and all the succulent reminders of home and comfort that it brings. I hadn’t been thinking about, much less longing for, BBQ until I put that rib in my mouth. My whole body shook with happiness and remembered why people flock to Kansas City for this meat joy.
4. You’re different
Colin and I chose “family-friendly” like places to eat like Fritz’s and didn’t get any opportunities to hit the gay bars or nightclubs. We took the kids to the pool, the same way our parents did. Colin tossed the kids around in the water, the same way my dad did for us. Kansas City with Kids! Starring Colin and Elizabeth as Dad and Mom. We’re different, so the experience is different.
5. A new generation of love
Driving to Newton to visit my sister, Isaiah gazed at the wide open Kansas landscape and said: “I want to live here one day! The plains are so beautiful!” Our love of a place becomes theirs.
6. Bringing stories alive
“Aunt Lane,” JD, “Aunt Cathy” and Suzannah have visited Connecticut, and shared stories. The “Mom and Cathy met when Cathy sat on her porch and Mom sat on hers” story has been told time and again, in many variations. Now they get to see the places where our stories took place — the old houses, workplaces, parks, and more — and imagine the ghost of us moving through them.
7. It’s like being in a fun house — same yet different.
Driving down Westport Road was like a counting game: This is new, that’s still there. New, still there. New, new, still there. Going back reminded me how vibrant and organic an organism a city is, continually being loved and shaped by its occupants. And the trees are so much bigger!
8. Wondering why I left at all
Arriving on vacation to a place I once lived, it’s easy to wear rose-colored lenses. To question my decision: why did I ever leave? It’s a good mind journey to take. For me, it helped me to see the city as it was: sprawling and beautiful, flawed and filled with potential. I remembered the reasons we left: for change, for adventure, for life waiting to unfold itself together, and I remember it had little to do with the city itself, but with us, and the possibility of the world beyond.
9. A chance to say thank you.
Stopping into your “old life” (especially with four kids) is like dropping a bomb on your friends. They are happily passing their way through their regularly scheduled week, and BOOM! Here’s the Howlips family!! Coming around in the middle of “normal life” is a pretty great way, though, to say thank you — not just for making us pancakes and bacon on a Sunday before our flight left, (thanks Tammy and Aaron!) — but for being the kind of really good friends who love us enough to make room for us.
10. Because Love is Everything: 10 seconds, 1000 miles, Still There.
Ford came to see us at the restaurant. He’s not much into kids and because of #4 above, I didn’t think we’d see much of him on our visit. Our “new us” is a hard pill to swallow for many people, and we understand. But standing next to Ford — the man I once referred to as my “husband” — I could ask him “how’s work” or “what’s up with your life,” but all I wanted to say is:
“love love love.”
This was true for all those I saw, and those I wished to see but couldn’t.
Going back meant getting to feel and touch again the place where I understood love — real love — for the first time. It was where I met myself, and where I met others who accepted me for who I was. I grew to understand my “shadowboxer,” as Don Oney Yates called her, and I was privileged to be loved right on through to the other side.
That’s a real honor and, to me, a monument worth visiting.