It’s a rainy morning in Wichita. Most of the colored leaves in the courtyard below our apartment still cling to their branches. The flags whip whirling music against the flagpoles. The cat sleeps, the light is soft, and a new month has begun.
For several years I spent the month of November writing daily thank you letters. This year I’m still writing wedding notes, so long letters aren’t happening, but I’m nonetheless eager to get into the Thanksgiving spirit.
Today I write a thank you letter to Wichita, our new home. Several friends have e-mailed to ask what Kansas’ largest city is like. Evan, Grace, Ruby, Laetitia, this one’s for you.
Wichita, I love your river. After growing up in Hawaii and living a block from the beach in Beverly, I’m grateful that we still enjoy proximity to water. The locals call it the Ar-Kansas River rather than the Arkan-saw River, and who can blame them? There are times when phonetic pronunciation just makes sense.
I love the water birds as much as I love the Arkansas River itself. Back in Massachusetts I saw egrets as auspicious signs. Imagine my delight the first morning we sat down to breakfast by the window and watched hundreds of egrets fly from the river toward the rising sun.
Wichita, you’re at the heart of the country, so your architecture is an amalgam of east and west. On a bike ride to Jennie’s I feel like I’m in the Philly suburbs . . .
. . . and seconds later I’m transported to my grandparents’ old neighborhood in Orange County, California.
Rose of Sharon bushes look like the hibiscus that encircled our yard in Hawaii. In September I stumbled upon a dance studio that boasts a hula troupe. Who could have guessed that moving to the Midwest would spark my return to hula?
Old Town Wichita is home to my beloved farmer’s market. Food is the main attraction, but on a really good day you might go home with a funky end table and a gorgeous pot of succulents.
Living downtown means we’re surrounded by beautiful statues, a fabulous library, and the glory of Picasso’s Pizza (shout out to my pal Tera, who introduced me to Picasso’s early on).
Living downtown also translates to very little traffic. You read that right. In Wichita the most traffic you’ll see is weekend mall traffic on the outskirts of town.
Wichita is a shopping mecca. We’ve got six Walmarts and more fast food chains than I knew existed. Places like Spangles, Church’s Chicken, and Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. I’m not known for my love of shopping in general or Walmart/fast food in particular, but it’s an interesting tidbit.
Another interesting tidbit: on most doors in town there’s a no-gun sticker. Kansas is a conceal-to-carry state, so the no-gun sticker requests that those with concealed weapons leave them outside of the building. Funny thing about those stickers – I saw them all the time when we first got here, but now I don’t notice them anymore.
Lately I’ve been reveling in the colors of a Wichita autumn. We’re told that in a drought year, the leaves shrivel up and fall early, but this year they’re gorgeous. What a gift for us spoiled New Englanders!
One of the chief perks of living in Wichita is its proximity to Omaha, home of Ben, Joy, Ally, and Jack Draper. In three months we’ve celebrated three birthdays, explored each other’s worlds, and enjoyed a veritable smorgasbord of goofiness. Life really doesn’t get any sweeter than that.
A couple miles down the street is a cross-stitching store. There are some things the Midwest simply does better than Boston.
For the first time in years I’ve stumbled upon a church that feels like home.
We were married just four months ago, and it hasn’t been easy to uproot and replant. David’s job wears him out. My lack-of-fulltime-job has brought up insecurities I didn’t know I had.
But here we are, Wichita! Within the soil of today’s discomfort lie the seeds of our future: not just where we’ll go and what we’ll do, but who we will be. In the evenings when we sit down to dinner I feel it best: trust, curiosity, contentment.
And doesn’t the word Wichita ranks as one of the best place names ever? We call our new friends Wichipals and describe meals as Wichitasty, Wichitantalizing. We don’t know how long we’ll be here or all the purposes of our stay, but hey Wichita, thanks for being home.