The questions visitors ask when they come to our city

We’re not from here. Lansing isn’t where we were born or raised; our relatives live hours away. Sometimes we joke that’s by design. Sometimes we don’t make that joke. …….

Um. So, as I meant to imply, when family visits, it’s a big deal. It’s an event. We roll out all the good stuff: we eat at the soup place or the crepe place or the place with all the local beers. We go to the art museum or we hike at a park or we play games at our kitchen table. We show them all the highlights.

People do find things to criticize or poke fun of. (Mostly Lansing’s potholes — usually because they just narrowly dodged a trip to the earth’s core. Forty-seven times since getting off the interstate. Which is one mile from our house.)

Photographic evidence: For a couple months out of the year, my city has leaves on its trees.

Mostly we don’t talk about the less-impressive stuff. We don’t curate tours that highlight empty strip malls, the used-to-be restaurants, the places someone got murdered. We show ’em the good stuff. We love this place and we want them to, too.

Our families are loving and curious (or they’re bored but too polite to tell us) — Show us the college where Dave works. Take us to your favorite place to eat, to get a drink. Show us, exactly, where Erin makes a living doing … whatever it is she does? (How do you make money, Erin? Money — that green paper? Remember?) Oh, never mind. Just drive us by the kids’ school, then.

Help us envision your lives here.

And we always talk about two things: why it’s still snowing (I may be a bit bitter about the snow we’re getting over SPRING BREAK) and — most importantly to us today: Where the kids go to school.

It’s hard to describe school choice in the time between ordering drinks and getting our food. I can’t sum up all the facts and describe all the nuances without their eyes glazing over. They get that it’s a big deal to us ….. but a lot of times, we circle back to “what’s best for your family?” and “… then why did you choose to live here?”

Honest: It’s hard to talk about this stuff here, in internet-public, let alone with people who love your kids as much as they love you.

I’m learning (by much Brene Brown and trial-and-error) that it’s OK to say, “we’re kinda waiting to see” and “we’re working through that,” and “ask me when my youngest graduates.”

And “If we’re going to talk about this, I’m gonna need you to buy me a drink.”

Because listen: If we placed a peg on a board every time we’ve declared “here is the right decision for us right now,” that board would shine like a Lite Brite. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the bigger landscape of parents making choices, of our kids growing up in front of us, and of people loving us through all our permutations.

There should be comfort in that. It’s got to be OK for us to linger in the spaces of “I don’t know what’s ‘right’ for our family” and “this schools conversation is so messed up.” It gives us so much time to grow in grace for all the other families having this same conversation.

And our poor visitors. They just get to be witnesses to their crazy relatives who love their city anyway, for its crepes and its people and even despite its snow and potholes. And thank all things for a glass of wine at dinner, amiright?


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