Amy Barrett has lived in the same house in Lincoln for 23 years.
She’s watched the neighborhood kids grow up, go to college and start families. She’s seen the trees in her backyard transform from small saplings into massive leaf monsters. And she’s seen herself change too.
When she moved into her house, Amy was far from home. Now, no place feels more like home than Lincoln, Nebraska.
Amy was born nearly 8,000 miles away from Lincoln in Manila, Philippines. She was one of eight children and grew up in a very traditional Filipino family.
When Amy was 17 she met and married her husband, Wayne, a native of Houston, Texas. It was a big deal that Amy dated and married a foreigner. Her parents were strict, and while Amy respected their wishes, she also liked to push the boundaries. She had a secret job, dated without her parents knowing and dreamed of someday leaving the Philippines.
After Amy and Wayne got married, they moved to Singapore for Wayne’s job in the oil industry. It was just the kind of excitement Amy had dreamed of experiencing.
Singapore was a city with lots of energy and diversity. Amy quickly made new friends with people from all over the world. She learned how to cook all types of ethnic food and was a sponge for information about her friends’ various cultures and traditions. It felt like Singapore was Amy’s new home.
But after having two children and being frequently on the move with Wayne’s job, they decided to move their family to Lincoln, Nebraska.
They landed in Lincoln during December of 1993 with no winter clothing, but they were anxious for a quieter and more stable place to raise their children. Amy plugged the boys into school and went to work making their new house into their permanent home.
It was a major adjustment. The boys missed their friends and it was a huge culture shift to move from a busy city like Singapore to the east side of Lincoln. But in a way only Amy could, she quickly went to work making new friends and carving out a place for her family in the community.
She found the people of Lincoln to be friendly and open, willing to share advice and connect with her family. It was refreshing despite all of the transitions her family had faced. Lincoln started to feel more like home.
Shortly before Amy’s 40th birthday, Wayne was diagnosed with lung cancer. He battled the disease for three months and then passed away suddenly.
Amy was shocked. The man who’d given her so much and loved her family well for more than half of her life was gone.
But Amy also isn’t one to give up. She was heartbroken by the loss of her husband, but she also had an amazing support group of friends that she’d built while they’d lived in Lincoln.
“It was hard, but it makes you stronger,” she said. “You survive.”
And that’s what Amy has done. A few years before Wayne died, Amy took classes to become a nail technician. Growing up with six sisters had taught Amy a thing or two about doing nails and the rest came naturally. She worked at a salon in town to make some extra money and loved the way it allowed her to socialize and do something she enjoyed.
After Wayne died, Amy continued working to support herself and her sons. She quickly built up a steady flow of clients who appreciated her meticulous work and friendly personality. Amy said she’s had a few of the same clients for nearly 15 years.
That’s the thing, Amy is just one of those people who others can’t help but enjoy being around. She’s an outgoing and warm lady who likes hosting big dinner parties with lots of home-cooked food for all of her guests. These big meals remind her of her mother who would make enough food for the whole neighborhood, because, as her mother would say, ‘You never know who’ll stop by for dinner.’
Amy operates a lot like her mom in that way. She’s hospitable and easy-going, but she’s also not afraid of hard work. Her story has been about adventure and exploration, but also heartache and resilience.
The difficult parts of her story just make her more thankful for the good things she’s experienced. Things like meeting and marrying her second husband, Don, being a grandmother and even simple pleasures like gardening or catching up over drinks with a nail client.
Amy’s story starts with an adventurous girl who dreamed of leaving home. Now, her idea of home isn’t some exotic city, but a house in east Lincoln with her husband, her dogs and a whole lot of friends – and that’s just fine by Amy.