Love Letter to My Previous Home

“Do you want to dance?” he asked me, extending a hand. I was sweaty and flustered, covered in dust and cleaning solution and standing in the almost-bare kitchen of the house we were *thisclose* to signing over to the new family that will call it home. I was feeling exasperated, and sad, and I didn’t feel like dancing. But I put my hand into his anyway, because sometimes being a family means reaching out when you’d rather retreat into yourself instead.

And we danced.

We danced in the kitchen, the one we’d envisioned for our family and had turned into a reality one long and sticky summer in 2005. It was the heart of this home while we had one son, then another, and another yet again. It was where we gathered to eat our family meals, to celebrate holidays with extended family, to blow out the candles on homemade birthday cakes, to cry together when we mourned death and yes, to dance together when we felt overflowing joy and gratitude for this messy life we shared.

Well, we didn't dance party HERE...this was *before*.

Dance party central, post-reno.

At our move-in painting party, when we were babies in 2001.

Scarecrow, I think I'll miss you most of all.

Chocolate!

Say "Happy Thanksgiving!"

Jason Mraz sang about how we belonged to each other and I clung to my husband and cried, really really cried, for the first time in the process of letting go of the place I thought we’d be for many more years. I took a moment to forget the minutiae of the practical matters of getting ready and let my heart prepare for it, my eyes leaking all over Joe’s soggy shoulder. I swayed with him and let myself feel that this kitchen, this home that I loved so much and had worked so hard to create was but a shell that contained my real home: this man and our boys and me. And my real home just moved across town, to a place with more trees and turkeys and a kitchen too small to hold a family dance party.

This new home isn’t the place where I came home, terrified and overwhelmed new mother, and laid my baby into a crib in a sweet little nursery…three times over.

Nursery days

Homework/reading/Lego den (robot decals to come soon!)

It isn’t the place I spent countless hours playing and tidying with toddlers, or working from home while questioning the wisdom in hitting the “pause” button on my career while the boys grew.

...they are best friends.

It isn’t the place where my children wore a bare dirt patch into the ground under the tree swing, where they practiced riding trike and bike, scraping knees and crashing into the fence before they learned to brake.

Wheeeeeee!

It isn’t the place we spent years perfecting for optimal use, rearranging spaces until finally it all felt like the puzzle pieces snapped into place. I have a lot of that ahead of me yet, in a completely new and differently daunting (though exciting) way.

"The Dormitory", with all three spring-breaked-out kids asleep in their respective beds.

But this IS the place where my boys will explore their natural world, and continue to grow like weeds with an unquenchable hunger. This is where they will have sleepovers, and nights around the firepit, and game nights around the dining room table. It is from here that they will graduate, and finally embark on their own quest for “home”, keeping a piece of this place as part of their home’s foundation. And I will add all of these new memories to the “home” I’m always building in my own heart. It’s okay that the vision changed. It’s okay that we had a change of venue. We’re still home.

There’s no need to complicate. Our time is short, this is our fate.

But I must share my gratitude for the house we’ve left, even as I settle into the place that is and will be. So thank you, Chamber Street. Thanks for being home. Thanks for teaching me so much, for sheltering me and my family. Thank you for being a piece of what we will all remember about building our true home together. We’ll always love you, and hope that your new family will cherish you and grow well in your protection, too.

Categories: Home, Mostly Me | 3 Comments

All the Light We Cannot See

It’s been a bit dark in this little corner of the universe. It’s the bleak midwinter, when the Minnesota days are persistently brief and too often gray. The trees are skeletal, barren. Occasionally a beautiful and sparkling snowfall comes to settle into lacey patterns on the branches, and cover the slushy, muddy older snow piles from previous storms. Something about the angle of the sun in February, much like in November, makes me hungry, hollow. I can’t find much to recommend these months on the particularly bitter-cold, dark-skied days.

When my aunt Linda (here known and forever preserved as the beloved CALi–for Crazy Aunt Linda–in the comments of numerous posts) died in November, the regular vacuum of the darker months seemed to turn into a bit of a black hole. I still wake up some days and just can’t make sense of it. I know she’d hate for me to be here, to stay here in sadness for so long. But how do I pull myself out, when the proverbial hand that so often hoisted me from a sinkhole–Linda herself, with her humor, her wisdom and wit–is no longer here to leave me an encouraging message?

I think I’ve said here before that I absolutely believe there is something beyond the life we live and understand with our worldly senses. I have felt the presence of departed loved ones often enough to never doubt that their energy continues, even though I can no longer see them in the form that was familiar to me. I heard a song on the radio on the way to work and was convinced Linda shuffled it onto my random playlist just then. One of my children shared a memory, or just the feeling of missing her, at the moment I was silently thinking of and missing her, too. I stumbled across an older Facebook thread, and saw multiple (and, of course, hilarious) comments she’d left me. In small ways, she was there…showing me she was still “with” me. But I am human, and selfish, and it is not enough. I want to see her. Hers was an illuminating presence, like that sparkling, new-fallen snow that brings the world into a different light. She brightened the dingy spaces with her humor. She made the branches beautiful instead of barren, just by being there. I wanted her sparkle, for now and always. I was, and still am, angry that she had just 56 years to shine, even if she was so dazzling it hurt. Cancer took her away. It stole something from all of us who loved her, and it stole even more from her.

I recently read a book that I know Linda would have found just as moving as I did (if a little melancholy for her tastes). The title attracted me…so much so that I’ve borrowed it to title this post…in part because, in my way of thinking, life energy doesn’t die but somehow goes somewhere else when someone dies. I don’t know what I believe beyond that, though it gives me some comfort to know that Linda believed her energy would join all the heavenly chorus to teach them all some really good karaoke tunes. I’m glad she knew where she was going, even if I remain unclear about the details. But since reading All the Light We Cannot See, I am even more convinced that what we see is so little of what is. Those of us with eyesight can become so reliant on our sense of sight as a form of evidence, of reassurance of presence. We have to “see” to believe, we close our ears to “distractions” to focus on the words and images before us. One of the main characters of the book is a blind child, and it is clear from the very beginning that she “sees” more than a hundred sighted people around her. As the author wrote about the choice of title for his book, “Ultimately, the title is intended as a suggestion that we spend too much time focused on only a small slice of the spectrum of possibility.” But there are other wavelengths–of light, of sound, of an internal compass or navigation or life-force–that can’t be seen. There are other senses that inform us when we are open to all the many kinds of light that exist, regardless of our ability to see them.

So I know she’s there. I don’t like not being able to see her and I don’t know that my selfish wish to do just that with my own eyes and hug her with my human arms will ever leave me, but I know beyond a doubt that she won’t leave me either, not really. She’s just there, on another wavelength, beyond my earthly ability to see but within my heart’s ability to feel.

Categories: Mostly Me | 2 Comments