A Socially Distanced Goodbye: Moving During a Pandemic

There is a video from six-and-a-half years ago of my newborn kicking on a blanket. Because I can’t seem to stop talking long enough to take a video, a conversation with my brother was forever captured.

Like all good Baton Rouge natives, we were watching the LSU-Iowa bowl game live.

It went something like this:

My brother: “Iowa, huh? I don’t even know if I could pick it out on a map.”

Me: “Pretty random, right? I don’t remember the last time I even thought about Iowa.”

Well, joke’s on me because a few years later my husband began applying and interviewing for medical residency positions and came to me making the case for the University of Iowa as his no.1 pick.

How could I have known that comes New Year’s Day I would actually live in Iowa and how it would steal our hearts?

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.”

But COVID has taken away the ability to choose my own ending, and I’m mad about it.

The last few months in a city are when you come alive. You are mindful about planning your days. You ditch the barriers that have held you back from extending that last-minute invite or worrying if it’s too much to see a friend three times in a week. You take the same walk or eat at the same restaurant as you have many times before, but it’s different.

You know it’s fleeting so the ordinary edges toward extraordinary.

I had an Iowa bucket list that included the Pella Tulip Festival, new restaurants to try, and runs to sign up for. I planned to have more spontaneous get-togethers with kids and the dinner dates with friends that we always talked about but didn’t get around to scheduling. I wanted to do an art gallery walk, try a writing class, and attend an author reading at Prairie Lights.

I may not get the ending I dreamed of, but I sure do have the memories.

The Iowa nice took a little while to get used to. It’s different than the southern way. People looked at me a little suspiciously at the park when I kept talking to them beyond the perfunctory nod or hello. But these same people then dropped everything to selflessly take care of us when we needed it.

We had three kids in two years in Iowa City, logging a combined 103 days at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. My husband was at the inaugural Iowa wave, and we later waved from the press box at Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

We are now Hawkeye fans for life.

I learned here how to talk calmly and thoughtfully about politics and experienced a caucus night.

I became a stay-at-home mom and can’t imagine a better place for it with the incredible libraries, parks, and Children’s Museum.

I’m constantly impressed at how clean and well-maintained Iowa City is. Maybe having to drink in cages at festivals pays off (watching people partake in the ‘beer garden’ at the Jazz Festival was one of my first, “Oh I’m not in Louisiana anymore” moments).

Other things I’ve learned about maybe that aren’t Iowa specific but are new to me: May Day, sushi rolls involving some sort of meat and pickles, and tacking “yet” to the end of sentences.

Iowa City, thank you for welcoming my family and so many like us. You knew we were likely transient, and yet you opened your hearts to us anyway.

You are a gem of a town, and we will miss you.

If LSU and Iowa play again, I will jump in with Iowa City’s exact location (even where Kinnick stadium is), I won’t need to think about the last time Iowa was on my mind . . . and I might even root for the Hawks.

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Meg is a transplant to the Midwest. Originally a Louisiana native, she moved to Iowa with her family in the summer of 2016 for her husband’s residency program. She and Addison have four daughters: Kate, born November 2013; Adrienne, born December 2016; and, Elizabeth and Caroline, born November 2018. Meg is a University of Richmond grad with a PR, government affairs and community outreach background.

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