​Dear Lewis House,

I was thirteen when I first saw you, even younger when I first heard of you. So as I come to this letter, I’m at a loss of where to start. I always imagined I would be vacuuming your hallways and balancing my boxes when this day finally came. I mean, we’ve been talking about it for almost as long as the decade I’ve known you. But still, I hate that I have to write this from somewhere in the Himalayas (yes, I’m not joking) and watch this whole process as if through glass. Yet, I will do what I can to remember you– and that is to write.

I don’t know if you know the feeling of hearing about something for years and finally experiencing it. What am I talking about, you’re a building, you can’t travel. But I suppose you heard my own name quite a bit before you met me. You heard of me then experienced me– and from your extravagant hospitality over the years, I have a feeling you thought I was alright! In the same way, my three brothers’ stories became reality, and I found home in a different country than my own. Every few years I came back, then I had to leave. I hated leaving every time. Did you know that? Did you know I cried every time I left, even last year? I did. And my heart jolts again today.

 And​I can still hear the click-click-clack of the code boxes, Jordan fiddling away on the old piano in the Hall, the swish and clang of general-spray bottles in the kitchen. I can still smell that ever-so-particular aroma of carpet and wall– the one that would shift drastically whether you were calmly drinking earl grey tea in the Stevo’s kitchen, or quickly walking past the boys’ dorms. And  I can still feel it all– the collision of young adult hormones, the ebb and flow of homesickness, the aftermath of a heart-surgery DTS class, and the bucket loads of bread consumed between it all.

Yes, it’s all fresh in my mind no matter how far away I am. And I know you’re proud of me– this is what my time within your red-brick walls trained and prepared for me. I’m on the mission field, finding home in a foreign country, just like I found in you.  I’m in the nations, I’m leading a team of others, helping them navigate disappointment and learn to hope again, just like I navigated with you. However, I’m taking a moment to grieve– just like I’ve learned from every hello and goodbye we’ve ever had. And I’m taking a moment to say thank you. 

​Thank you for the roof over my head, despite some crazy Australian storms with epic lightning shows. Thank you for the food in my belly for months on end, despite my complaints about the lack of rice. Thank you for teaching me to cook, and helping me conquer my fear of ovens even though I still have a scar on my wrist from taking those meat pies out too fast. Thank you for showing me how to sanitise, and how wiping door-handles every day really does keep the doctor away. Thank you for teaching me the true meaning of hospitality– that it doesn’t have to be about the facilities or what you have to give, but it’s always, always about the heart. 

Most of all? Thank you for the friends. There’s old ones that came and visited me (special shout out to Cori), and there were many new ones who are now old friends. Can three months forge lifelong friendships? Everyone who’s lived within your walls knows it to be true.

I was thirteen when I first saw you, and I know I will see you again soon. However, I won’t be vacuuming your hallways and balancing my boxes this weekend, or even moving down to Kara with everyone else. I’ve still got a few adventures in the Himalayas to fulfil before you see me again, and in that time your hallways will be empty and my boxes elsewhere.

But I promise this– sometime in December, I’ll steal away from the end-of-year festivities and walk to that corner of Section and Highfield Street– and say thank you in person.

I really am eternally grateful.

Much love,

The Norris Girl

​(also known as Kayla Norris)

Photos: The ins and outs of Essington Lewis House, 2010-2016. Newcastle, Australia.