I always liked that sentiment from Cyndi Lauper ... so, as I teeter on the edge of ending the Jackson, MS / Medical school chapter of my life and prepare to begin a new one, I will pause in this in-between time to reflect on the things that I want to always remember about our time here ... the good, the hard, and the heartbreaking ... What did I gain from my time in Jackson, MS?
... Strength. This is where we had our Sophie, where I cried when life got too hard to bear, where I thought to myself frequently, with a husband in medical school, living on welfare, three tiny kiddos, the hearing loss, and other challenges, "I can't do this anymore. I'm just not strong enough ..." I hyperventilated when Wes informed me at the end of his first year that he would no longer be able to drive Lillie to school for me. I panicked because I was 8 months pregnant, and I couldn't imagine ever being able to get 3 kids ready and out the door by 8:20 a.m. to drop off one of them at school. But I did it! And now I get 3 kids ready, dressed, backpacks and lunches and snacks packed, and out the door by 7:45 to drop them all off at school. This is where I found out that I am stronger than I ever realized I could be.
... Self-discovery. When I was 19 and joined the LDS church, I thought I had to fit into some cookie-cutter mold of what a typical 'molly mormon' was supposed to be like. And I gave up some things that were a vital part of me. When I moved here, I realized that I had a chance to rediscover who I used to be. That I could be outspoken about my political views and my taste in music, and not be ashamed of that. That although 'mom' is my main role at the moment, I could also be other things. After six years of trying to change myself to fit in, I had the chance to try to remember who I was before. And I realized that I could live my values and hold my beliefs ... and still be ME. The question was ... who was that? This is where I have begun trying to figure that out. I'm definitely not exactly the same person I was before, but I am better! And I'm still working on it!
... Confidence. This comes from the first two. I am now happy in my own skin (stretch marks and all). I don't care what others think of me anymore. I go to lunch alone sometimes, or to the cafe for a hot chocolate, or to the movies, and I don't feel awkward about that. I don't feel the need to explain myself as much. Now that I know more about who I am, and I know how strong I can be, you can take me or leave me, but I won't change.
... Our house. Not just the cabinet space, private fenced backyard, corner lot, and other qualities I'm trying to sell to others at the moment. We bought this house and transformed it. We have painted every room. The plumbers had to bust open the slab to replace a huge section of pipe. Wes had to create a backyard out of a neglected, snake-infested garden plot and randomly placed sections of fence. And the memories ... oh, the memories ...
------10-month-old Harlan using a plastic shovel as a spoon to eat mud in the backyard.
------Lillie's mud and sand pies.
------Bringing Sophie home, and how Harlan wouldn't take his hands off her as Wes carried her down the hall to her crib.
------Meetings with Charlotte, the parent/infant coordinator at Magnolia.
------Birthday parties -- and our annual September "Hearing Parties" in the backyard.
------Lillie's "Art Festival" birthday party in the art room.
------The windows with the diamond-shapes on them. (I don't know how to describe this.)
------Wes's quest to find the perfect TV, and bringing home progressively bigger ones until he settled on the 55" (despite my better judgment).
------The Tree Swings!!! The delight of my kiddos, neighborhood kiddos, and missionaries alike!
------The mailbox outside the front door, and getting to know Mr. Don (our regular mailman) and Mr. Mailman-Tim, the substitute mailman for Don's off days. It is rare to have walking mail people anymore.
------The water slide, may it rest in peace.
------Hanging the wet clothes out on the clothesline to dry after Hurricane Katrina.
------Watching huge oak trees bend and sway during Katrina.
------My grandparents coming to visit, and living close enough to go visit them.
------Neighbors. Kim, Sherry and Jules ... Patrick and Elizabeth ... Terry and Jeremy ... Mr. and Mrs. Smith and her thousands of porcelain dolls ... and the other amazing neighbors we didn't get to know as well but whose dogs we love to pet when they walk around the block ... Linda ... Mr. Steve ... Tony and Sam ... Susan and John ...
------When we bought this house, the 93-year-old man who had lived here since 1961 (it was one year old when he moved in) told us, "Be good to the house, because it's been good to me." I think I need to pass on the same advice to the person, whoever that may be, who buys it from me. It's a great house.
It's long, but I said it was a suitcase ... maybe more like a moving truck of memories!