Goodbye to Kentucky... sort of

I mowed grass for the last time today. Something I've begrudgingly done for years, especially after the death of my husband Matthew, I likely will never do again. I'm leaving Kentucky after 20-some years to start anew across the country in a place with pretty much zero grass. The kids and I have sold our home, have packed up and we are moving out to the desert of Arizona this weekend. Where sun, mountains and dry heat will take the place of lush grass, weeks-long rain spells and many frigid mornings.

Since all my shit was packed up and had already been sent west, I realized I didn’t have my stinky yardwork shoes, only flip flops. Anyone who has tried to mow grass in flip flops knows this doesn’t work. So I mowed it barefoot. These feet have a lot of miles on them, don’t they. I looked down and wondered (how badly I need a pedicure) but also why people always say Kentucky 'bluegrass.' Because grass here is not blue— it's a deep, rich green. The blue apparently has something to do with the blue-purple buds that give it a different blueish cast in the spring. But I’ve only ever noticed this green. The green seen in field after field and in pastures along every mile of this state. It's a beauty that I've probably taken for granted for 20 years and what I realize now, I will miss.

When I moved to Kentucky in 1999, the closest thing to a farm I had ever experienced was visiting goats at the Potowatomi Zoo in northern Indiana where I grew up. I had never seen a horse race. I had never been near a tractor or had ever seen a gun. I had never tasted bourbon. I was the farthest thing from a Kentucky girl.

But years upon years, time and life changed all that pretty fast. The first home my late husband and I bought here was a farmhouse on 50 acres. I used to strap my then infant son in a carrier on my chest while I cut the acre of grass in front of the house on a riding mower. Our summer plans sometimes revolved around whether the hay in our fields was baled yet. I've been to the Kentucky Derby a couple times and the horses are so much more magnificent in person than they are on TV. I've perfected a bourbon slush recipe that has been requested at quite a few parties. And I'm not a bad shot at target practice with the gun I keep under my bed. I mow the damn lawn barefoot. Yeah, I’m pretty much a Kentucky girl now.

I have spent more of my life in Kentucky than I have anywhere else. For over two decades, it's been my home. And while I'm thankful for the time I've lived here, I am excited to start again somewhere new. I'm happy to say goodbye to many things— like shoveling snow (and then shoveling it again a couple hours later). Goodbye to icy roads on our school commute. Goodbye to rainy, grey weekends and 30-degree April days. Goodbye to sinus infections, fall allergies and miserable winter flu seasons. Goodbye to antiquated state legislation that doesn't allow me to buy wine at a grocery store like other normal people in America. Goodbye to those asshole stinkbugs that used to descend on my house every summer like an Old Testament locust plague.

But some of the goodbyes aren’t so great.

Because I hate saying goodbye to countless people who have become my dearest friends. People who took me in and accepted me for exactly who I was—an outspoken, obnoxious, moody bitch—and they still wanted to be friends with me despite it! So many fun times spent here in Kentucky, loving and laughing with the neighbors in all the homes we've lived in. I say goodbye to a chapter in time full of memories and experiences that cannot be replaced or forgotten. I was the wife of the hometown grocer here. I became a mother here. Four times. I buried angel babies here. I shared a lifetime worth of cries and laughs here with a man who was my best friend. I became a widow here when I buried him not far from where I sit tonight. The kids and I talk to and leave cards often at his resting place here among this Kentucky bluegrass.

I don't like goodbyes. They make me sad and regretful and sometimes tearful. It's why I have a hard time looking people in the eye. Because depending on the emotion there, it can be too much for my stupid heart. So when it's time to leave, I will joke. I will laugh. I will probably avoid the emotion there. I will not cry. I hate goodbyes. Maybe that's why the fates never really let me have a formal one with Matthew before he died. It would have been too much.

I will miss Kentucky and the people here I've become close to in the course of 20 years. The kids will miss their friends. We'll hang onto our memories from this time in Kentucky. But it’s time to move on and start the next chapter. These feet have seen a lot of miles here in this bluegrass. This beautiful green grass. I pray even greener pastures await— now maybe on just a few feet of artificial turf in the middle of a desert backyard that won’t need mowing. My next chapter holds promise of exciting adventures, fun experiences and an opportunity to love anew without regret.

I'm a Kentucky girl and always will be. I'm not saying goodbye. This beautiful bluegrass under my feet will always be a part of me. No matter where I go, Kentucky will always be in my heart.


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