"How do you do it? How do you say goodbye?"
It was an interesting question. My sister surely said a plethora of goodbyes herself - mostly to me - but this time was different. This time, instead of saying goodbye to me, or to Dad, or to her then-boyfriend, she was saying goodbye to our mom. And unlike the few goodbyes they'd had in the past, which ultimately ended in an airport reunion, Leeners wasn't going away to Manhattan, Disney World or Illinois.
Because this time, it was Mom's turn.
"How well do you remember the move from California?" I asked her in response, both of us curled up in our rooms with FaceTime pulled up on our respective iPhones.
"I remember the plane ride," she responded.
"I remember it - vividly," I told her. "And maybe that's why it's so easy for me to say goodbye - because I had my first big one when I was almost eleven."
To Elyssa Bohanna, my next-door neighbor and fifth grade best friend. To Grandma Marilyn, with her tea parties and serene backyard. To the small town of Nipomo - small by Californian standards, anyway (Missouri and PA would beg to differ [and Ireland would then turn around and beg to differ them.]) To California as a whole. Most importantly, to Dad.
Over the course of my life thus far, I have lived in fifteen different places (sixteen, if you count the RV we stayed in temporarily while in-between houses.) One town-home and three houses in California; two houses in Missouri; dorm, three apartments, campus apartment and one house in Colorado; one apartment in Florida; one house in Ireland and one town-home apartment here in PA. Since leaving Mom’s at seventeen, I’d stayed on and off with Dad, with roommates and with Mom again. Nearly eight years total were spent in Missouri - seven in adolescence, three months after college and almost a year following my return from Ireland.
So I’d already said goodbye, the day we left with Dad in his car packed up with all of my things and headed towards Colorado and uni life.
Leeners said goodbye, too, the day she flew off to NYC and became a student at one of its prominent performing arts schools. She said hello again a semester later, and then more goodbyes as she went off to work at Disney, twice. But every time either of us returned, Mom was always there, in that pink house on the hill (I can’t begin to count how many times I begged her to paint the house a different color.)
Leeners still had her room. Mine was turned into a junk closet, unwalkable and unlivable, so my new room when I returned was the guest room. When I was finally able to step into the attic again, that beautiful teal loft bedroom of every teenager’s fantasy, it was empty. Not only was the junk gone, but everything - even the broken dresser with its poorly drawn dolphin and cheerful remark about Pilates - was either packed up, sold off or taken to the landfill. A fitted sheet-clad bed still sat in the middle, a nightstand next to it, the AC on full blast in the window. One solitary quote - “A dream is a wish your heart makes,” written by a teenager in Sharpie on the slanted ceiling - seemed to capture my life since leaving that bedroom.
And now Mom has left, too. Not to Virginia, as I always thought she would, but instead more southeast. The Rushes will make their new home in Greenville, South Carolina, which is infinitely easier for me to visit than Springfield, Missouri.
But as I spent my formative years in Springfield, it seemed only right that I pen a post about the impact the Ozarks and this city of 100,000 has had on my life.
Carver Middle School, sixth through eighth grade. Brand-new to the area, freshly broken arm in a white cast and sling, learning to play the violin. Chess Club. Drama Club performances, as a tiny Cratchit kid or a raucous Cloud Chick. The day of the Friends finale, when orchestra families hurried to catch the second half after their kids performed. The first time I saw Titanic, at a Valentine’s Day party held by longtime best friend, Brittany Balloun. Finally making it into Strolling Strings, shortly before it became Carver Symphony. The story published in Voices from the Middle. Being forced to make a screwdriver in shop class, which came off with a C thanks to Grandpa’s help. The Ozark Empire Fair every summer; lasagna every Christmas. Orchestra and choir trips to Silver Dollar City (this would continue through secondary.) Teen Library Council. Back-to-back showings at the building formerly known as the Palace.
Kickapoo High School, ninth through twelfth grades. Joining everything - Kickapoo Prairie News, Academic Team, orchestra, Youth Alive, Pay It Forward, Environmental Club, the literary magazine, Yearbook, just to name a few. Excelling in Spanish. Excelling in speech. Volunteering at the RoHo with Britt and Stacy. Getting stuck in a cave. Understanding Astronomy, solely because of Harry Potter. Many, many sleepovers. Saying hello to Ashley, goodbye to Grandpa. The start of a decades-long close friendship with Kristina. History with Broaddus and Hockensmith. English with Self. Mamma number two. Easterngate Freewill Baptist. PK and Miss Penny.
Pineapple Whips. Lots and lots of P. Whips.
I'd visit here and there in university, though the heres were much shorter than the theres. And then for the three months in-between leaving Colorado and moving to Ireland. Celebrations at Braums. Answering patients’ calls with the hardworking ladies of Ferrell Duncan. Gaining a second dad. One last summer with Leeners. Hanging out with Britt like old times. And the final get-together with Nancy, though I didn’t know it at the time.
After Ireland. Getting to know the amazing women of Preferred. Combing through discovery files at the Greene County Prosecuting Attorney’s. Lunches every Thursday with the girls from the PA’s at various downtown spots. Trips to the Asian Market with Katie. Meeting Emma. Victoria, This Is Us, The Good Place, Mary Tyler Moore, Newhart and Heartland with Mom. Movie nights with her and Ray. Relay for Life with Michael and Leeners. Hanging out with the two of them whenever we had the chance. Getting used to having an older brother. Meeting Meagan, my future sister-in-law. Working as the Communications Director for the Greater Parkcrest Neighborhood Association. Another goodbye as I headed back to where the Domenys started.
Springfield brought with it several good things, most notably another dad and my status as the middle child in a line of older brother, two older sisters and younger sister (plus, soon-to-be younger brother.) It also contained the not-so-good: a dumping that somehow gossiped its way to the entire sixth grade class, seventh grade bffrenemy drama, misogynistic comments on the middle school bus, goodbyes to both of my beloved grandparents.
But it shaped me. It helped me to grow into the woman I am. And now it has waved off the others, as well.
Mom and Ray are in the Carolinas. Leeners is in Illinois. Dad is in Colorado. Liz is in Ohio. My brother and SIL are still in Springfield. Missouri still has a couple aunts, an uncle and a few cousins. The girls Leeners and I have known since birth who are sisters to both of us are there, too; for now, anyway. But without Mom there, it seems unlikely that I will see Springfield again. Maybe Marshfield. Maybe Greenfield. Maybe KC. Definitely St. Louis. But Springfield? Doubtful.
So goodbye for the final time, Springfield. We had our ups and we had our downs, but through it all, I could always count on a Pineapple Whip.