Kelsey and I had wildly different upbringings. She grew up in the same town her parents and grandparents grew up in. We can walk a few blocks and stop in to say hello to her cousin, her aunt, her second cousin. She is Quincy, born and bred, through and through.
I’m a transplant (which made me an attractive option as a significant other). As a child, I’ve always been a transplant. I’m an American child of the Air Force born in England. Elementary school was spent in Upper Michigan, middle school in Missouri, high school in Kansas, then back to Michigan for college/early adult-hood. In fact, when I moved to Quincy in early 2016, it was my fifth state in as many years.
Where Kelsey has a hometown in Quincy, Illinois, I have three in Stilton, Cambridgeshire, England, in Marquette, Michigan, and in Manhattan, Kansas. We can drive a few blocks from our house and see the house she grew up in, the houses her parents grew up in. Up until recently she had never been to one of my hometowns or seen one of the homes I grew up in.
But on our most recent trip to visit my mom and sister, both now living in Wichita, I suggested a detour. Normally we leave about mid-day, and complete the 6 hour trek from Quincy to Wichita in the evening. But this time, we left in the early morning, and had a little bit of extra time to play with, so we planned a stopover in Manhattan.
Due to the pandemic, and the point of our trip to visit my immunocompromised mother it was a quick drive around town to show Kelsey the highlights of my youth. We didn’t stop at any local eateries for a sit down lunch. We didn’t spend time wandering the streets of Aggieville, the college district just off Kansas State University’s campus. We’re going to save those experiences for when we can fully experience the town.
But I had lived in Quincy for almost two and a half years by the time Kelsey and I had already started dating. I was familiar with the parks, the high school, the restaurants, the shops, the side streets… almost everything that made up her youth. It is fun learning her perspective and experiences with them all, though.
With Manhattan, however, she was learning about it entirely through my experiences with it. The first thing you see when you enter Manhattan from the south is the mall, where my proms were held. Driving up through downtown where my dad worked, seeing the multiple campuses where I went to high school, the driving tour of Aggieville, and then to the north side of town to see the home of my teenage years, my middle school, the ballfields where I spent my summers, the fairgrounds, the high school and college football stadiums. She doesn’t have the base, neutral familiarity with my childhood like I do with her’s. She only got to experience it through my own nostalgia, through a car window.
What fun it was to take her on that trip, though, regardless of the minimalist execution. I’m a transplant to her hometown, from relatively far-off locations, each with their own unique flavour and stamp. We haven’t been able to swing up to Manhattan before, despite how close we fly to its orbit in our annual trips to Wichita. She got to briefly experience one of the towns that made me who I am. Even though we couldn’t walk through my old school, or go into my old house, or sit down at one of my favourite local restaurants, she got a peek behind the curtain.
I can’t wait to take a weekend and really dive into and experience Manhattan. I can’t wait to take an extended week up to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to show her Marquette, the one town I’ve ever truly loved. And I can’t wait to take a long trip to the United Kingdom and rediscover Stilton with her, a village I haven’t been to since the family moved out in early 1990.