Last summer, I took a trip to Salt Lake City, Utah, to visit some friends, as well as to escape the intense North Carolina seasonal heat. I am originally from the Mountain West and for a few years lived in Utah, so always enjoy going back to connect with family and friends and to delight in the open vistas and mountain views.
Some of those friends, Lisa and Peter, took me to eat at Café Rio in American Fork, some 35 miles south of downtown Salt Lake City. My husband and I purchased our very first home in American Fork in 1983. Back then it was a small town. There were no shopping centers and among the few restaurants in town were McDonald’s, Schlotzsky’s and a Chinese take-out. Our home was part of a new subdivision of starter homes located at the end of a cul-de-sac and was surrounded by beautiful farm fields. Our home faced east and we had a lovely view of majestic Mount Timpanogos from the living room window.
My daughter, Jennifer, played with the two boys her age who lived across the street. During the week, after I got home from teaching school and the boys’ mother returned from her work, we would sit on our porch steps and visit while we watched our little children play in the street together. We could only let the kids play in the street during the week because the boys’ father drove a flatbed semi-truck for a lumber yard during the week and on weekends would park his truck in front of their house directly across from ours.
While at the restaurant enjoying my tasty burrito, I looked out the window and recognized the familiar view of Mount Timpanogos. As I continued to gaze through the window, I realized that I was sitting just a few blocks from where we used to live. The farm fields were now filled with shopping centers, restaurants and more houses.
I asked my friends to humor me and see if we could find the house. I had to call my husband to get the address. (He remembers details like that.) I typed the address into Google Maps on my iPad and, sure enough, we were just three blocks away.
As we drove into the neighborhood, I hardly recognized the old home. It was no longer at the end of a cul-de-sac. The street continued into another neighborhood where a farm used to be. In front of the house were two huge trees. We had minimal landscaping back in the day—certainly no trees.
I looked across the street and could not believe my eyes! There was a flatbed semi-truck parked in front of the neighbors’ house. Could it be the same family? I had to knock on the door to make sure. It took me a few seconds to realize that it was the dad who answered the door. I hadn’t seen him since 1986—the year we moved—but I knew it was him. “Is that you?” I asked, calling him by name. “Yes. Do I know you?” he replied, not recognizing me.
He still had his hair, but it was graying, and he had acquired that middle age bulge. His wife not only did not show her age, but she was much thinner. (I won’t talk about how my looks have changed!) We had a nice, short visit and caught up on our kids. My former neighbor said that she still worked at the same place in American Fork. (It was already apparent that her husband hadn’t changed jobs in nearly three decades.) All three of their boys—they had another son after we moved—lived nearby. In fact, they have a granddaughter.
I couldn’t help but admire how they kept their house all these years. They remodeled and finished off the basement. They built a deck (with a gorgeous view of the mountains) and landscaped, even expanding their property to include an adjacent lot. They created a beautiful home and raised their boys. They seemed happy and content and with their lives.
I’ve reflected often since that visit about the many changes in my life from the time we moved from that house in American Fork 26 years ago. I’ve worked at a university, eight different public schools, a school supply store, school district office, and now I am running my own business. (I also was a stay at home mom for two years.)
David has worked for four different companies and has had two different businesses. We have lived in two different states, Florida and North Carolina, in six different towns, and in 10 different apartments or houses.
I ask myself, “What would life be like if we had never left American Fork and still lived in that same house?” Or, “What would life be like if we had never left Utah? Would life be better? What if…?”
Then I start thinking about all the experiences and adventures we would have missed had we stayed in Utah:
- Would we have found a doctor who was able to properly diagnose Jennifer’s neck tumor and save her life at age five?
- Would I have given birth to my son, Zachary?
- I have had numerous work experiences such as teaching kindergarten, Headstart, ESL, and technology. I also had my own early childhood education workshop business when I lived in Florida. I worked in the school district office for two years in Lee County, Florida. I do not believe I would have had the variety of teaching and training experiences if I stayed in Utah.
- We had a beautiful pool home in Florida that we enjoyed for many years.
- I would have missed out on taking my children to some of the most beautiful beaches on earth, DisneyWorld, Butterfly World, Corkscrew Swamp, Ichetucknee Springs, Key West, the Dry Tortugas, and numerous other fun places unique to Florida.
- I have had many opportunities to serve in both the community and my church.
- And what about all the opportunities I have had to travel in the United States and abroad because of the work my husband has been involved in over the years including New York City; Washington, DC; Portland, Oregon; Boston, Massachusetts; Atlanta, Georgia; Miami, Florida; Phoenix, Arizona; Las Vegas, Nevada; Columbia, South Carolina; San Antonio and Dallas, Texas; St. Louis, Missouri; Huntsville, Alabama; Los Angeles, California; plus Hawaii, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica and Spain.
- I learned about butterflies and how to plant gardens to attract them. I actually began rearing butterflies and this has become my life’s work.
- And of course, I have met and made friends with so many wonderful people everywhere we have lived and visited.
A caterpillar plods along, eats and after awhile it feels a bit uncomfortable. It must shed its old skin to make way for a new skin in order to allow the caterpillar to keep growing. I suppose I am much like a caterpillar. I get to a point in my life that I am not satisfied, I am bored, or I am in pain, so I feel the need to cast off the old situation and create a new life circumstance.
When the caterpillar is ready to change into a chrysalis, it makes a silk thread to hold onto while it sheds it skin for the last time. There is a point in this process that the caterpillar must let go in order for the old skin to fall away. This is critical for its survival.
Like the butterfly, we are all on a journey. On this journey we encounter endless turns, shifts, and conditions that cause us to change. All change is good – even if it may not seem so at the time. Change is what life is made of and it is necessary to grow and learn. At our journey’s end we are inevitably transformed – not at all the same as when we started on the path.
And hopefully, somewhere along this journey when I decide what I want to be when I grow up, I will transform into a beautiful butterfly!
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” —Maya Angelou