As my wife, Donna, and I were dating and were trying to learn more about each other, we talked about what we desired from life. Our differences quickly became apparent. She grew up in Los Angeles, and I grew up in the middle of nowhere.
When I asked her where she wanted to live, she said, “Tahiti would be nice.”
This was because she had come to Idaho for college and had endured one of our winters. However, she said she would settle for anywhere a few degrees south of freezing to death.
“What about the size of the town?” I asked. That, to me, was the most important thing.
“What difference does that make?” she replied.
“What differences does that make?” I repeated in surprise. “Why, that makes all the difference in the world!”
When I was growing up, our nearest neighbor was almost a mile away. I knew every person that lived within a ten-mile radius of us (all ten of them). On the other hand, when I went to visit her family for the first time, she hardly knew the name of a single person who lived on her block.
I learned that quickly. When we arrived at her parents’ house, the first thing we did was to go inside so I could meet her family. Then I went out to the car to unload our luggage. Not far away I saw a neighbor who was watering his lawn. I thought I would be friendly, so I went over to say hello. I introduced myself, and told him I was a friend of Donna’s family.
“Who?” he asked.
I pointed to Donna’s parents’ home. “Your neighbors, the Walkers.”
“Oh, is that the name of the people who live there?” he replied.
I thought he might be new in the neighborhood, but I found out he had lived there for 40 years. I continued trying to visit, but he just looked at me strangely. Eventually, he went inside and peered suspiciously at me through the curtains.
So when Donna asked me where I wanted to live, I knew exactly what to say.
“I want to live in a place where the population is small enough so that if someone addresses a letter to me, and all they put on the envelope is my name, the town, the state, and the zip, I will still get it.”
She laughed. “That is impossible. You know very well that won’t happen anywhere.”
I could not convince her that I felt it would. Nonetheless, despite our major differences, we married. We spent many years with me going to college, and finally returned to live in Idaho in a very small, rural community.
Then came the day that I started writing short stories. Over the years my stories have gradually reached a wider and wider audience through hundreds of newspapers and magazines across the U.S., Canada, and other parts of the world. A few of my stories have even run in magazines with millions of readers.
One day, after one of my stories ran in one of those magazines, I came home to a surprise. As I walked in the door, Donna handed me a letter. It was from a lady who said she was an older woman who enjoyed one of my stories immensely. She told me a bit about her life and why my story meant so much to her. It was a lot of fun to read.
After I finished reading it, I read it to Donna, and she smiled. “That is all wonderful, but there is something more important. Look at the address.”
“Yes, I can see she is from Pennsylvania.”
“Not her address,” Donna said. “Yours.”
I looked at the address, and it had nothing more than my name, the town, state, and zip code, and yet it had still been delivered.
I smiled and knew that I had found the home I had wanted.