Only I didn't return home to Maryhill Dr. And obviously, I didn't take a time machine back 20 years.
Yesterday... home wasn't a physical place or a certain year in history. Home was in the form of a lifelong best friend and his family.
I'm certain that God strategically placed Casey and I in houses across the street from each other when we were growing up. Neither one of us had a sibling... we grew up in the same grade in school... with parents who worked together and were friends. My mom - the Sports Information Director at UNI. His dad - the head athletic trainer for the Panthers. When our parents were traveling, they traveled together, and he and I played together. When holidays came around, we very often spent them together with our families. Especially New Year's Eve. I don't think I've had a better New Year's Eve than the years we spent with them at Brown Bottle before returning to our house to play Pictionary until Midnight. I certainly don't think I've laughed as much. When we played together at my house, I was Barbie. He was Ken. When we were at his house, I played with his cars and marbles. Our friendship fit together like two perfect puzzle pieces. I know that my childhood would not have been what it was if it wouldn't have been for the friendship our families shared. Too many great memories to even put it into words, really. The best way I can sum it up is to say that when I think about my memories growing up... the Noonan family is in almost every singe one of them.
And then we grew up.
Right before we entered high school, Casey's dad accepted the job at Oklahoma State and moved the family 10 hours away. I remember watching them pull out of their driveway for the last time that morning... and I look back at that moment as a pivotol one. I knew that morning that my youth years would never quite be the same. Shortly after, our family built a house on the other side of town, I started high school, got a job, had my first boyfriend... and grew up. But we never lost touch. Months would pass in between phone conversations, but it never mattered. And when we both started college, we made it a point to see each other at least once a year. He came to see me at UNI, sleeping over at my apartment, content to make waffles in a waffle maker and watch movies rather than head out on the town.
We went to Oklahoma to visit he and his family in the summers, where I experienced the night life with other Oklahoma State students. I remember how open, warm and friendly his friends were with me. He and I were like each other's siblings... family... only we weren't. But that's how we always described our relationship to people who couldn't understand how a guy and a girl could be that close without it being more than friendship. It never was more than a friendship. I think that's what makes it so special.
During college, our best phone conversations happened when he was out taking his dog Rosco for his nightly walk. But one night, I called him for a very specific purpose. To tell him I'd gotten engaged. I had a question I was going to ask him, but I didn't need to ask it. He beat me to it. "So... I should get ready to be in a wedding then, huh?"
Casey was a groomsman in our wedding and the only person I felt comfortable having the important role of lighting our dedication candles before the ceremony. His mom was one of my personal attendants... because the wedding wouldn't have been comlete without her involved. (And her attention to detail is unmatched!)
Yesterday we took the boys down to Iowa City to visit Casey's parents' new home. Terry is now employed by the University of Iowa, and Casey and his girlfriend Hayley were there visiting from Oklahoma City. Oh yeah... and they brought their new puppy, Wesley.
Brandon found the bear that used to sit in Casey's room back when we were growing up...
...and the rocking horse that Casey and I used to ride when we were little!
It's so fun to see your kids find joy in things that are a piece of your own special history. Life really does come full circle sometimes.
It had been a year and a half since we'd all last seen each other, but it never matters how long it's been. We always pick up where we left off. The older I get, the more I appreciate relationships that have that staying power. Like God really did have a plan in it 28 years ago... knowing the lifelong blessing it would be.
Hayley and Brandon really connected on this trip... (he was just a baby last time we'd seen them)... and she has an open invitation to come babysit anytime!
The reunions we have are always too short, and the goodbyes always hit me hard a few hours after they're over. But I'm incredibly grateful for friendships that stand the test of time and distance... and grateful that we'll always have our memories...