There are many places that feel familiar to me because I have either lived there or visited often throughout my life, but there are two places that feel like home. Coshocton has felt like home since I was 10. It felt like home even after I graduated from high school, got married, moved to three different states, had children and finally moved back to Coshocton a couple months ago. Small towns don't change much, and I love that. Coshocton is a stereotypical mid-western small town. Everyone farms or knows a farmer. The county fair is the county's biggest social event.This is a fantastic hometown.
The other place that feels like home is Corning, New York, a place where I spent only 5 years of my life. I'm not exactly sure why, though Eric and I have talked about it many times. It is also a small town, though it is a very different kind of town than Coshocton where agriculture and industry take center stage. Corning has a somewhat intellectual atmosphere. Education and the arts are of great importance. In Coshocton I may go to the grocery and have a 10 minute conversation at the deli counter about the nephew of the deli worker (I know neither of them). In Corning I will likely find polite, to the point deli service with no frills, though the people there are equally as kind hearted. The two places have little in common on the surface other than their river valley locations and the fact that I have happily lived in both places.
This past weekend we left Coshocton and traveled to Corning for the first time in four or five years. It has been so long that Ava didn't remember anyone. As our little Campbell house where Lukas first lived came into view from the interstate, my heart warmed as I recalled wandering through the neighboring cemetery reading the stones of Civil War veterans and chasing the neighbor's calf back into it's fenced meadow. As the church came into view through the trees off the Painted Post exit, I remembered unloading our U-Haul into the Manse apartment 12 summers ago wondering what our new life was going to be like. When we finally got to our destination in the heart of Corning, I was thinking about so many great memories made with the greatest of friends. Babies born. Games played. Celebrations. Heartaches.
I love this place, not because of the place itself (though it is lovely) but because of the people, the culture, the atmosphere, the gracious church family where so many people still love us...Corning is a place that we will always love, and I believe it will always feel somewhat like home.
It helps that my dearest Mindy lives in Corning, and we got to stay with her and her amazing children while we were there. She spoiled us with time to be lazy(oh, I was so lazy on Saturday!!!!) and great meals and our own personal cake decorating demonstration. Our children had a blast together. Her girls were so sweet with Ava even though she is smaller than they are. Lainie and Ava seem to especially have much in common in spite of the four years that separate them. And the boys? Goodness. I would love for these two boys to be able to spend more time together, and since they are both planning to Skype and keep in touch on-line, I'm pretty sure they agree.
Our reason (more like excuse) for visiting Corning on this particular trip was graduation. Our first graders were graduating from high school, and the Harts invited us to Bekah's graduation. The Harts first invited us into their home when we moved to Corning fresh out of college. They immediately made us a part of their family and even asked us to join them on Christmas Day for dinner when they knew we weren't going to be able to leave town to spend the holiday with family. Bekah was 6, and I believe Katelyn was 3. Bekah and several others we know graduated from high school over the weekend leaving us feeling slightly old since these young adults were the little ones during our first years of ministry. It was a blessing to be a part of their special day.
Sweetening this weekend even more was the opportunity to spend time with the Ernst family. Stacy is another very dear friend of mine. I had such a great time getting to see her in person and getting to see her whole family. Her kids have grown and changed so much. The internet is a great tool for keeping in touch, but there is nothing that replaces face to face time with a friend. Our time was definitely not long enough.
Of course we also got to attend a worship service at Victory Highway Wesleyan Church, the place where Eric served as their first children's pastor, where we were loved and mentored and challenged and stretched and forgiven. Pastor Paul Piraino spoke even though he wasn't supposed to be on the schedule this week. I sincerely hope that their senior pastor has his voice back, but it was quite a treat for us to hear Paul teach in his absence.
Even though our journey to Corning also brought us heartbreaking news from a sweet friend, we were blessed more than I can express in writing. Being able to hear first hand what was happening in this person's life, to be able to pray with her in person and to see her while she faces so much ahead of her meant the world to me.
As we were leaving Mindy's on Monday morning, Bryson told us to "come back every 5 months" to visit. Wouldn't that be nice? That would be much better than 5 years between visits. Reasa followed this up by mentioning that if we waited another 5 years, she would be ready to graduate from high school. Oy. I don't think I'm quite ready to think about Reasa being old enough to graduate. Let's hope that we can visit closer to the 5 month mark than the 5 year mark.
This weekend away was just what we needed. Corning, NY...I love this place. I love the people there. I love seeing the hospital where my babies were born as I drive down Denison Avenue, and I love the eclectic, artsy atmosphere that permeates Market Street. I love the church family that has changed so much in the years of our absence but still has so many familiar faces. I am a blessed woman to know of this place, to have lived there, to have loved there and to still have it be a part of who I am.
Corning feels like home. I suspect that it always will feel that way no matter how much time passes between visits. I sure hope that it does.