One of the wonderful bits of living in Milwaukee is that we can jet down to our alma mater Wheaton in less than two hours if traffic cooperates. This Fall has been unusually full, but we carved out a great day to go down for homecoming. Last fall we went down for Evan’s 10-year reunion and this year it was my turn. But we have enough friends in the two classes that it felt like we both really got two homecomings.

 

 


Homecoming is of course chockfull of nostalgia and remembering and noticing the way things change and remain. But even between the two homecomings just a year apart, it’s amazing how much our little family has changed. Last year Jackson wasn’t even crawling at homecoming, just sort of scooting backwards into furniture, and now it’s hard to remember when he wasn’t running and climbing.

 

 

The gradual and monumental changes of young children are so extraordinary. I’m sure next year it will be hard to remember when he wasn’t talking. We’ll think back to this homecoming when he only had a handful of words: mama, dada, baby, car, pie. (Evidently we’ve been eating a lot of pie.)

 

 

Children were of course the main highlight of homecoming; so many people had them in carriers, on the hips, running down sidewalks, or growing in rounding bellies. I think that at a place like Wheaton most people sort of assume they’ll have kids, but it wasn’t something we spent a lot of time talking about during college. We didn’t talk about wanting to be a certain kind of parent, but now 10 years out that is exactly what consumes most our thoughts.

 

 

One of the great, great delights in coming to Wheaton is watching my peers be just such extraordinary parents, and to be reminded that they are also in the trenches. Some have grade school kids, some are just getting ready to start families, but they are all facing the same decisions, and sacrifices, and bravely muddling-through, just as we are here in Milwaukee.

 

 

(Of course some of my nearest and dearest friends from Wheaton don’t have children whether from choice or circumstance, and they are doing extraordinary things…but they also didn’t come to homecoming! So forgive the all-kids-all the time tenor of this post, or just enjoy the pictures of the adorable toddlers in my life!)

 

 

We started out the day meeting our dearest friends Brett and Julie’s newest baby. (Toby, with a top-rate and top-speed birth-story.) Their oldest is our goddaughter (one of the twins), and Jackson and Evan went outside with the big kids to sort black walnuts and go on adventures around the block.

 

 

I stayed up with Julie and caught up on all things babies. Being just far enough away to see each other only a few times a year means that we almost always have an extended visit for part of a day or part of a weekend, and in some ways that means that these are some of our closest friendships because in toddler and baby-land we rarely spend more than a few hours with our local friends, and honestly even that’s a stretch because it’s usually more like 20 minutes chatting while chasing a child at church. So it’s a real gift to settle into a day with friends and let the conversation unwind and meander, reflecting and making sense of the past year over a warm mug of tea (and princess costumed newly six year olds).

 

 

 

Late morning, we headed to campus with Brett and Julie and squashy Toby for lunch. Meals at big events for people with considerable food restrictions (especially my nightshade one) can be tough, and sometimes it can be a reason to just feel not up to going out.

 

 

We had packed a picnic that I thought we’d just eat outside on the lawn, but Julie, ever the persuasive extrovert, said, “oh, no no, just ask them if you can bring your own food in.” So I did, and they were happy to let Evan and I bring a picnic full of roast chicken, cold sweet potatoes, salad, and fresh fruit in to the class BBQ. All around us there were familiar faces, door-mates and classmates feeding kids and laughing. I got to chat with two of my harp ensemble ladies, a woman from my summer at HoneyRock camp, and a member of my freshman wilderness experience (Highroad). It was a great little slice of my college friendships. I was so glad that Julie pushed me to ask, and that the event workers were so accommodating. It doesn’t always work out that easily, but with a little planning (and bringing your own food) eating Paleo out can work and still have you at the table with your friends sharing fellowship.

 

 

After lunch, and finding a bathroom for the potty training toddler, we drove over to a friend’s Airbnb for a tiny (and filled with tinies) coffee time reunion. Coffee time was an unofficial club that we started to drink coffee and tell loud caffeinated stories to what ended up being some of our closest friends.

 

 

Just three of us were able to make it (out of roughly a dozen), but with spouses and kids and a lot of toys, the living room felt full. Jackson made his maiden voyage in complete nap-refusal, which wasn’t ideal, but we went with it (well, because we didn’t have much choice!). He miraculously was good tempered the whole day, fell asleep in the car on the way home at 7 and slept fairly straight through until 7 the next morning. This, if you know our marginal to somewhat bad sleeper was perhaps the biggest grace of the whole day.

 

 

So over coffee and chocolate and baby monitors and various babies getting up and going down we talked about parenting and careers and churches which consume 99% of our days these days. Evan and I live with a foot in a lot of different worlds, politically and theologically mainly. We’re moderate and quick to feel like we somehow vacillate between being crazy conservative in some settings and wildly liberal in others, sometimes within the same day. And to be with friends who got us, who we didn’t have to hold back an opinion, or nuance, or concern, was such a breath of fresh air. Maybe we’re not crazy. (Or maybe we have good friends who are in that boat with us.)
Between the chatting and the baby wrangling, we were all racing back to campus for our class photo. We didn’t make it in time for the flash, but everyone else did.

 

 

(We were in last year’s, so there is some evidence for posterity.) Still, the best bit of the class photo was having all the members of our class all in one place at one time. Near where we were standing, I saw this girl in the class picture whom I recognized but couldn’t place. She came up to me and she couldn’t remember where we knew each other from either. We listed possibilities, and then I said,”Well, I did Wheaton in France, but I’d remember if you were there.” And she said, “I did Wheaton in France!” There was a very small group of women who went, maybe 16, so I’m glad we both forgot each other. But then it was easy to reminisce about our summer in Paris (mostly the weird Pentecostal camp at the end) and to chat about kids. It was exactly the kind of moment I imagined homecoming to be filled with.

 

 

We ate dinner in the car on the way home, eager to get our nap-free baby homeward. And our hearts were so full. We both have had a lot of physical homes through the years, and especially since we’ve been married. And while our first house and our first baby make us feel especially rooted to our little corner of Milwaukee, Wheaton still feels like a bit of home. On a beautiful Fall day and filled with a handful of our closest friends, it’s just nice to feel welcomed back and encouraged that people are doing the same mundane, sacred work of life scattered across the country.

 

 

How about you? Do you enjoy a good homecoming? Where else feels like home?

 

2 Responses to Homecoming

  1. Alicia says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Amy! I love seeing these photos! How fun that you and Evan could go down for the day! Your post makes me miss Wheaton and YOU so much more!! We need to catch up on the phone soon!! Its been too long…love you, friend!

    • Amy Rogers Hays says:

      Yes yes yes! It would have been so much fun to have you at either of the homecomings! It was such a beautiful day there: you know late September early October, the kind of day that makes you forget there is a February. Miss you so much sweet friend!

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