I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma in the spring of 2012, starry-eyed and instantly smitten. My mom had gifted me a Toddy Cold Brew Coffee Maker as a housewarming present, so after work I'd make an iced latte and drive around downtown with the windows down, watching the setting sun sparkle against the miniature skyscrapers. There's a picture of me - somewhere on a misplaced memory card - standing in the middle of a 5x5 show at the Tulsa Artists' Coalition, my hands proudly planted on my hips, beaming. I had submitted a tortuously ugly piece to the show, but I remember looking around at the swarming gallery and inhaling a triumphant breath and thinking: I made it! Tulsa is exactly where I want to be.
You know when you're falling in love and you vow to remember the first place you made out and what you were wearing the afternoon you split a marshmallow milkshake during a torrential downpour and the way your partner was looking at you across the room when you glanced up from a novel you were reading? That's precisely how I felt, and how I feel, about this little south-Midwestern city.
There were picnics on the living room floor of Lone Wolf kimchi fries (piled high with candied bacon and cilantro), riding the gondola at the Tulsa State Fair, linen blankets and pints of ice cream at the Admiral Twin Drive-In, date nights at Mary's Trattoria and a shared slice of pie at Antoinette Baking Co., bringing home a Christmas tree from the Owasso Christmas Tree Farm, sprinkling our popcorn with sweet and spicy seasoning at Circle Cinema, bouquets of forsythia and lilac from the farmer's market, estate sales in Maple Ridge on balmy summer mornings and concerts at Guthrie Green on long summer evenings, a scavenger hunt at Christmas underneath the twinkling blue snowflakes, and cheering until we were hoarse at Tulsa Tough. Later, more recently, there were Porterhouse steaks and flutes of champagne at Bull in the Alley, sipping cocktails topped with toasted coconut at Saturn Room, riding our bicycles until dusk, growing spinach and peppers in our backyard, and bringing our daughter home from the big, pink hospital on the hill.
And in the summer of 2015 (on a particularly sticky evening), I met a couple friends at Philbrook for a film in the gardens. While we were waiting for the movie to come on, I affirmed my dreams out loud and declaratively told them: "I'm going to open my stationery store by next summer." I had been sitting on the idea since I was 21, and it was obvious that Tulsa - home - was the perfect place to do it.
On a clear October day last year - having missed my goal by just a couple months - I opened Merriment to a line of women waiting outside. At the end of the day, I looked down at my swollen belly, five months pregnant with my daughter, Gemma, and whispered, "We did it!" And as I locked the door and looked toward downtown, the autumn sun glittering against the silvery buildings, I thought: This is exactly where I want to be.