Saturday, August 29, 2015

On the edge

Dear friends, I apologize for my silence over the past two weeks; I guess I didn't realize how long it had been since I last posted. I suppose I should catch you up.

Last week, I took some time out to visit my family. My parents moved to a new state about a year ago, and until last week, I had still never seen their new house. My mom invited me, and we strategically picked a week when my brother would also be in town so the four of us could all spend time together. It was a really great chance to see where my parents have settled, catch up on all that's happened recently, and hang out with my brother.

One of many bridges over the Ohio River. The land on the left
is Ohio; on the right is West Virginia.
My parents' new home is on the Ohio River, on the border between Ohio and West Virginia. They live in a small industrial town, which actually in some ways reminded me of Coos Bay. The difference is that wherever you look in my parents' town, there is a strong sense that you are on the edge of something. The river belongs almost entirely to West Virginia, so as soon as you mount any of the numerous bridges across the water, you cross a state line. Add to that the hilltop houses that characterize my parent's side of the border, and the whole town feels like it's poised, lifted, like a child on tip-toe peering over the edge of a cliff. It's a very unique place.

We wandered around the historic downtown. We peered into the boutiques that occupy the ground floor of so many old brick buildings. We toured an old mansion on an island in the river. We attended a trivia night at the local pub and didn't even come in last place. We ate together; we went to church together; we watched movies, played games, and drove each other nuts. It was great.

Every time I visit my family, I'm reminded of how awesome they are. My parents care about me more than anyone else ever will, and my brother and I are exceptionally close. We were still missing one family member last week, but when you get all five of us together, we're unmatched. We know each other; we care about each other; our conversations are loud and chaotic and full of love.

My mom, dad, and brother.
It occurred to me a while ago that my family life is a bit ironic. I regularly travel the world in search of community, building connections with anyone I can and trying to bring diverse people together. I've written about ideas of community before, and it's a large part of the reason why I travel. What's ironic is that I spend so much of my time searching and trying to build community, while the best community I will ever be a part of is already waiting for me at home. Scattered throughout the American Midwest are the four people I care about the most, who share my genetics and will always be a part of my life. And somewhere over there is a beautiful house, poised on the edge of the Ohio River, where I left my heart last week. Because family is the truest manifestation of community.

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