It is easy to indulge in an anonymous lifestyle during your twenties. New cities, new jobs, new relationships – you can reinvent yourself every few years and few people would be the wiser. Perfect the art of happy hour chatter and you will always be invited to the next party, welcomed in the next group.
As I march toward 30, I am grateful that I have been given a different story. And that story has largely been rooted and nourished by people and place. I’ve tried hard to separate the two, but the truth is, they are inextricably linked. So when you read your place, know that I am speaking of you. Thank you.
I begin by being grateful for home. For the Village, which cared for my soul and fed my mind and challenged my spirit, even as I was beginning adulthood. But also for the big green couch where I read the final Harry Potter book, trading off chapters with Laura; where I sat to open Christmas presents and collapsed when I came home from college. I’m thankful for fires in the fireplace that twinkled through our wine glasses as we read Christmas cards; for my sunflower yellow bedroom wall that told me I was home and for the glass dining room table that stretched to fit all of the family at Thanksgiving once we were finally all old enough to appreciate that we had been given each other. I’m thankful for sturdy kitchen counters that held dear friends as we talked about our increasingly separate worlds; for the hardwood floors where I sat and played with my dog; and for the front porch stoop that let me watch the neighborhood and remember who I am.
I’m thankful for Grove City College – for the chapel gardens that heard our prayers of heartache and hard families and stubborn sins and the ever-sought travel mercies. For the apartments where I learned how to cook my own Thanksgiving meal alongside the friends who had become family, about the importance of carefully planned spontaneity and the welcome of an ongoing Scrabble game. I’m thankful for the way that the sun shone through the tall windows in the Gee/SAC/STU, illuminating the loud laughter of friends at the tables in the corner and for real conversations that were always more important than homework. I’m grateful for the hard, wooden pews of the chapel that caught my tears, even as the hands of friends pressed the Spirit back into my heart. And for the Hall of Arts and Letters where I learned to think, to challenge, and to listen, in service to the Lord and the world.
Other days will tell of my gratitude toward McLean Presbyterian Church and the home and haven that they have provided. But here, I will mention that place as a doorway into others. Out of MPC came the Sycamore House, the first place in DC that felt not like a borrowed home, but truly, deeply, a home of my own. We toured the empty house with dreams for its future – dreams that beautifully turned into reality. Shared evening meals, backyard bar-b-ques, costume parties, cook offs, dance parties, movie nights, bridal showers, snow days, and laughter – so much laughter. If a building itself can be a gift, the small brick house on Sycamore was an abundance. I’m thankful for lessons in hospitality and improvisation and the importance of always having canned goods and bottles of wine. And for the laughter.
After Sycamore came the legend that was 5 Doors Down. If Sycamore was a place for widespread hospitality, 5DD was more a place for rest. There were parties – homecomings and Christmas caroling and Easter dinners – but there were more meals with just a few friends, or, more often than not, just us roommates. We would come home from long days and sit for hours, drinking tea at our candle-lit table and processing through our increasingly complex worlds. All of us would start new jobs while living there, wrestle with heartbreak, struggle with deeply-rooted sin and talk through how to love our families, friends, and neighbors. I am grateful for the space to welcome in my beloved d-group and to sit and laugh and cry with them in the comfort of a home; for a “guest room” that allowed us to welcome in visiting friends and sometimes strangers in need of a place to rest; for the trinket shelves and the children’s books and an abundance of throw pillows. And I’m thankful for the movie marathons and late-night preposterous conversations; for the Red Mango runs, the wild accusations, the no-pudge brownies and the life that was lived within those walls. I’m thankful for a place where I could walk through the door and exhale, because I knew that I was loved and cared for.
As I enter 30, my house is no longer a place of comfort and knowledge, but largely a place of anonymity. And so I appreciate the depth and beauty of these places all the more. To spend a decade largely removed from the connections of family and history and still find yourself known and loved and rooted is perhaps the greatest gift.
And I am grateful.