It's a bit of a joke in the crowds I run in.
Wait, Sarah, where are you from again? my friends will ask, their lips curved upwards, smirking.
You need not know me for long before I start talking about my beloved Oregon—land of coffee, roses, and the setting sun. I've been in California for six years, but still carry my Oregon driver's license, still refer to McMinnville as my capital H "Home", and jump on a plane north bound any chance I get.
My life is no longer there—California is where I work and study and play—but oh, my heart, and the tangled beginnings of my story, very much are.
I grew up in a little farmhouse tucked between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, that was purchased by my great great grandparents in 1910. After raising their family, they sold the house and the surrounding acreage to their daughter Susie, and her husband Joe. As the story goes, Susie and Joe fought like hell, but being good Catholics, never divorced; Joe simply moved out, coming back to visit from time to time.
Susie raised her babies and farmed the land all by herself, working the land well into her 70's.
It's the house her youngest son, Bud, returned to after World War II, having promised Susie he would make it back by Christmas of 1945—which he did, arriving on her doorstep with his sea bag over his shoulder at 11:00pm on December 25th. (Later, he would tell me that he never expected to come home from the war at all, but was glad to keep his promise to his mother.)
It's the farm he and his sweetheart, Donna, frequented with their five children, visiting Grandma Susie until she was too frail to live on her own, and moved into town with them. After she passed, the house sat unoccupied, and eventually fell into disrepair.
It's the farmhouse Bud's youngest daughter and her husband would approach him and suggest restoring to it's former glory, with the crazy idea that they could one day live in it together; Bud & Donna, their daughter Susan, her husband Allen, and their two girls, Kate and Sarah. (Hint: that's me.)
A few years later, and new life was breathed into the little house at the end of Brentano Lane; the half mile stretch of country road named after Susie. Whatever was in good enough shape to be repaired, was; this was no remodel, it was a restoration, down to original hinges and door knobs. Bud, himself a retired carpenter, supervised every project in his childhood home with care.
Ever since the spring of 1998, the the six of us have made our lives and our family there, through gray, wet autumns and winters, followed by lush, green springs, culminating in long, glorious summers with endless daylight. Grandma makes dinners, and Grandpa keeps the garden, my Mom works the land, and my Dad makes it possible by embracing his wife's family, and their house, as his own.
And oh, how I cried and cried over that house and it's occupants when I left for college, running back to to hug my Grandpa just one more time as my mother waited patiently in the car.
Sometimes I wonder if I'd be different, had I grown up in another place.
Would I still feel such a fierce connection to places (and their people) if one of my Grandpa's sisters had inherited the house? What if the farm had simply been allowed to weather and dissolve with time? Would I still hold such a love for tradition? Would I be better at change, or maybe feel a little less deeply? The only way I know to live is with a reverence for people and places, for history and home, and how all of our stories are being woven together. Nothing, and no one, is disposable or unimportant.
Did I make the house, or did the house make me?
More than likely, it's a bit of both, but I'm not sure it matters. I wouldn't trade that house, and the way it's formed my heart and my story, for anything.
So I'll continue to wear a pendant around my neck in the shape of my home state, a small heart engraved in the upper left corner where the farm sits, and smile when my friends make jokes about my love of home.
How lucky I am, to have a place I'm a fool over loving.