When my husband and I were married over six years ago we did a little tree planting during our ceremony. It was a symbol of our new budding life together as one. We took that tree and planted it in the yard of the first house we bought together in Utah. For five years, we lived in that house and overtime turned it into our home. We watched that tree grow in the corner of our backyard and joked about how the amount of new life on the branches each spring was directly correlated to the amount of love we had experienced that year. Fittingly, we called it our “love tree.”
About a year and a half ago we left our love tree, and all the memories and life we had breathed into the walls of that house, to start a new chapter in Kansas City. Our closest family is on my side and resides about 3 1/2 hours North in Nebraska. To some that may seem like quite a ways, but for us it was worth moving for. It wasn’t like we had this life long dream to live in Kansas City, it just simply became a means to an end. A way to get back to the Midwest. Back to a place where sports were beloved and summers were humid. Where thunderstorms were mighty and lightning bugs twinkled. A place that felt like home.
Here’s the thing though, a true sense of home doesn’t come by just closing on a house or hanging pictures on the wall. It comes over time. It’s built from memories made and lived and forever engrained into our hearts and minds. It comes as you fall deeply in love with the city around you. When you no longer have to use GPS to get around. When you know where to go to get the best happy hour deals and which restaurants serve the type of macaroni and cheese your picky toddler will eat. When you have a favorite local news channel and follow it religiously. When certain local events become annual traditions. When you turn onto your street and feel an overwhelming sense of calm rush over you like a sigh of relief. Of comfort. Of home.
Of course it’s no secret that the people of Kansas City LOVE their town. I mean really love it. I think it took me a total of 24 hours of living here to figure that out. You can’t go anywhere in this town without seeing someone sporting their hometown pride in t-shirt form. The most popular of course is simply a giant heart with KC in the middle. The people of KC love their sports, their BBQ, their bee, and the iconic buildings that make up the city skyline. They love their new streetcar and tailgating in front of Kauffman stadium. They love pumpkin patches, cider mills, and some farm west of here with giant sunflowers.
Most days I still feel like a newbie or an outsider. Like a poser who wants to fit in while I Google places people casually mention in conversation. As if it’s common knowledge if you’ve lived here for any stretch of time. I still use Google Maps whenever I go south of I-435, or venture across the state line. I still haven’t been to the Nelson-Atkins or the WWI museum. I’m still trying to sort out which towns are on the MO side and which are on the KS side. Where exactly is the Northland again?!
But then there are those days that I find myself driving along that familiar stretch of Johnson Drive, and I’m instantly sent back to the time I drove it while in early labor with my daughter. One memory; a root dug in. Those days when I wear my Royals championship sweatshirt and recall hearing fireworks and yells outside our bedroom window the night the boys in blue took the crown, while our newborn daughter slept beside me. Another memory; another root dug a little deeper. The days I grab coffee from Black Dog, pizza from Pizza West or a pint at Barley’s. The days I suddenly realize people that started out as strangers are now considered friends. More roots growing deep and intertwining in my heart.
We may have left our love tree behind, but we’ve slowly dug in new roots here in Kansas City. Each year new life will come in the form of memories made instead of budding branches on our tree. That new life of course, is directly correlated to our growing love for this city.