I was driving slowing down our dirt road, giving the song time to finish before I reached home. I looked across the farm land and saw our neighbor’s house. I had an instant thought—I would be a different person had I not known those people, my dear neighbors.
They showed me a world I never knew.
From near birth, they were a part of my life. I witnessed life being lived by good, honest people with incredible work ethic, both at my house and at their house. Together they raised me to live a life absent of envy; an incredible thing, really, the roots of which I cannot explain. I learned that people are just people. Every family has problems and troubled times—there is no need to hide in shame when you can seek solace in the arms of family and good friends.
I learned the importance of working hard with my studies and that college was a given. It was never something I had to decide; I was going to college, even if it was community college. My neighbor would sit and go through the spelling bee lists with us. I didn’t know at the time, but I am an aural learner and that practice really helped me. The presence of music encouraged me to participate in making beautiful music and found it to be an essential friend during trying times.
When I was in my early twenties, I had no idea who I was, or what I wanted to do with my life. I just smiled to myself, unafraid. I figured I would continue live a good, honest life and whatever I was supposed to do would come to me when I was ready for it.
I never thought I would return home at age 40, across the road from those people who mean the world to me. The irony is that I know who I am and know what I want. It is never something anyone wants to have to do; to move back home with your parents, especially after being away for so long. But for me and my son, it has provided a stable landing place for us to get our lives settled, and hopefully, a launch pad for our new life.
The sweetest part is that my son will have a few years of memories of shoveling snow, getting the mail, and picking up branches for people whose presence in my life is deeply burrowed into my heart and soul.