Oklahoma is not “home” for me. My husband and I have actually only been in Shawnee just barely over a year and a half. I was born and reared near Bingham, Ill., (good luck finding that on a map!), a very small, small town in a very, very rural part of the state and, what most people would consider – “the middle of nowhere.”

Oklahoma is not “home” for me. My husband and I have actually only been in Shawnee just barely over a year and a half. I was born and reared near Bingham, Ill., (good luck finding that on a map!), a very small, small town in a very, very rural part of the state and, what most people would consider – “the middle of nowhere.” My family owns a large farm out in the “boondocks” where, season after season, acres of corn, wheat, and beans would be planted, grown, and harvested. Lucky to be “farm kids,” my siblings and I spent wonderful hours outside– on our bikes, in the barn loft, in the woods, on the four wheelers, and even fighting over who got to drive the John Deere lawn mower. Unforgettable time spent, priceless memories made!

We spent hours during the summer running up and down the rows of corn in the fields that bordered our house. We anxiously waited for the stalks to grow just over our heads, making it much easier for my two brothers to scare the three of us girls as we raced through the maze of stalks playing tag or hide and seek or some marvelous game we simply made up at the moment. Corn leaves could do a number on our bare legs and arms, and we usually ended up with scrapes and scratches all over, but we were

more than willing to take the pain for the hours of fun had in those fields.

My first actual job was “walking” the rows of the bean fields, pulling out the weeds – something I don’t care to ever do again, but something of which I have such fond memories. My twin sister and I learned to drive in an old stick shift on a dirt road in the back acres of our property, and we practiced our parallel parking between two hay bales. Times were good! 

Countless nights I remember sitting out on our backporch watching the sun set slowly over the horizon of the bean fields, wheat fields, corn fields, or my favorite, a field of freshly baled hay. I remember nights lying on a blanket outside looking up at a “trillion” stars. I remember sitting in the hayloft listening to rain pound on the old tin roof. I remember the smell of freshly-turned dirt, the smell of rain, and the smell of a storm moving in. I can still hear the song of the whipporwills and the lonely cries of the coyotes and the haunting sound of the owls. I remember how good it was to be a “country kid”..... and I’m glad I didn’t know how much I would miss it, or I might have been tempted to stay on the farm where my mom still resides. I love going home — back to mom, back to the country, back to so many wonderful childhood memories! 

I particularly miss mushroom season, in mid-April to May, when we would set out for the deep woods with our bread bags in hand to hunt those delicious, but teasingly elusive, morel mushrooms. Inevitably, we would come back with a half sack each full of varying sizes of morel mushrooms that my dad would fry. Mmmm, makes my mouth water to this day just thinking about them! In the 10 years I’ve been away from home, I have yet to find or eat any wild mushrooms.

I’ll be honest — I did not want to move to Oklahoma. Had I been given a choice, I’m doubtful that Oklahoma would have made my top 20 states I’d like to live in — or even consider. Fortunately, the decision was not mine in the situation and being newly married, I gladly followed my husband here. However, to be even more honest, the first four or five months here in Shawnee were just plain awful. Of course, it’s rough to move anywhere new where you know so few people and even less about the community. And, the pains of the move were made even worse by the fact I was moving away from my twin sister — I was certainly not happy about that! That separation I still find very difficult — that’s the funny thing about twins!

Nevertheless, in late January of 2010, my husband and I moved to Shawnee, ready to start a new chapter in our lives. It’s almost impossible to put into words the differences between Oklahoma and Illinois, but rest assured, it’s just different! Besides the lack of brown dirt, the fields of corn, wheat, and beans, John Deere tractors swarming the roads, and wild mushrooms, I very quickly learned that Dairy Queens in Oklahoma are practically non-existent!

In the year and a half my husband and I have lived here, we have already been exposed to more of Mother Nature’s wonders and sometimes wild ways than we have ever been in our entire lives — a tornado the first few months into our move, an earthquake a few months after that, and most recently, the drought! Needless to say, we’ve encountered a lot of changes and new experiences here in Shawnee.

In retrospect, reflecting on the past 18 plus months we’ve been here, we’ve come a long way. My husband has a wonderful career at OBU, and I’ve been blessed by my job at First National Bank that has given me an incredible opportunity to be involved in the community! The good Lord knew I needed that, because I was reluctant to change my driver’s license to Oklahoma until I knew for sure I wanted to stay.

I have had the unique privilege of meeting and working with some of Shawnee’s finest people. In the short 13 months I’ve been working here, I’ve met some incredible people and organizations that have reminded me that it’s not the streets or the buildings of a town, nor is it the stores or the businesses, it’s not even the Dairy Queens that make a community — it’s the people! And, Shawnee has some of the very best! As the song says, I have come to “love the dear hearts and gentle people who live and love in my hometown.” And, finally, I can honestly say that I have come to love Shawnee, (yes, OKLAHOMA!) as my hometown!

And that leads me to another reminder: I have always called Illinois my home — back where the brown dirt hosts fields and fields of crops, where the John Deere tractors swarm the roads, where wild mushrooms grow, and where the nearest Dairy Queen was only minutes away. I realize now that home isn’t any of those things; home is with family, friends and loved ones. I’ve learned your “home” travels with you wherever you go so long as it’s in the company of ones you love. I suspect I’ll always call that big farm back in Illinois “home,” and it will always hold a dear place in my heart. But, the fact is, it was “home,” because I shared it with so many people I loved.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had gone out of town for the weekend. As we were nearing the Shawnee exit on I-40 late Sunday night, my husband commented, “It’s good to get back home.” For the first time since our move to Oklahoma, he referred to Shawnee as “home” — and I couldn’t have put it better myself.