Autumn and Family

A past Thanksgiving in the place that is now my home.

I’m not sure I can blame it on the season, but there is something about fall that makes me miss my family in far away places. Sitting here at breakfast with the husband, I even miss our  family members that live down the street. Maybe I’m thinking longingly of Thanksgiving gatherings. Maybe it’s the thought that the long winter is coming and we should see people now, before travel gets risky. Maybe it’s because life is so obviously changing for all of us and I feel the need to KNOW how it’s affecting everyone.

We do a lot of sitting and talking. Good stuff.

Mom and I were sitting in her living room, doing our sunrise chat one day this week. She brought up the fact that many of our southern family members had moved recently. They were in houses she had never seen, so she didn’t know how to picture them at home. We started reflecting on how much better we know someone if we have visited them in their home – or at least we think we know them better. We know where they sit to relax, where they stand to talk on the phone, where they let their cat in and out, where they set the table for a meal. We know a lot of things, if we’ve been there. 

This topic is also on my mind because it was just a year ago this summer that we moved.  For quite a while friends and family didn’t know where to picture us. Even scarier, we didn’t know where to picture us. We were kind of floating and fitting in. A year into being Hayward residents, I feel like we are gradually setting our stamp on our home. There are beginning to be ways that it reflects who we are, our interests, our activities and priorities. As that happens, I feel the need to be known.

I am grateful today, for all the times I’ve been able to visit friends and family in their homes. I’m grateful for the times I’ve been able to host them in my abode. Those sharing times add to my awareness of their personalities. I know the ones who find minimalism comforting, and the ones who surround themselves with ALL their treasures. I know who is handy with tools, who loves creative touches, and who spends most of their time outdoors. I love knowing these things.

 And since this is Saturday sabbath, I have to consider that God is leading me to think about what I consider my “real home”. What will I find there and in what style am I getting ready to decorate it? From what I have seen of God (who I believe came up with the idea of home and family), the good things here on earth are meant to show us, in a small way, what he will let us experience in the future. He is such a hopeful God. 

I know not everyone is comforted by their knowledge of family togetherness. Some have never known a family. Some would like to forget what they know of family.  If that’s you, I want you to know that when it is done God’s way, family is wonderful. My family experience is not perfect – no one’s is, but even the hard and sad times have purpose. They create a holy longing for the perfection that will come when God makes bad things good again. I think it’s that simple, maybe. Just sayin’… 

Introspection

The world has gone a bit surreal, and I’m not quite sure where to place myself in it. Thirty one years ago I left Hayward, Wisconsin for life in Florida. It was a completely new life in every way. Now I am back, but again it is a new life in nearly every way. The actual “work”of moving is done so now I have time to think about what has happened. Introspection is a mixed blessing.

We arrived last night, like we have for many vacations over the years, after a long drive, suitcases in tow, with plans to catch up with family members and visit childhood haunts. The surreal part is that we won’t be packing up again in two weeks for the trip back to Florida. We will stay here and see the seasons change, make new friends, start new routines, and settle in. Instead of calling Mom every morning I will meet her in the kitchen as we get our first cup of coffee.  Instead of cleaning my own house and taking care of the oneacrewoods, I will be looking for ways to help others with their homes and yards.

For months, this change from one life to another has seemed so far off and so slow in coming that it was hard to believe it would happen at all. “If you ever get here…” Mom would say. I would reassure her that the “challenge of the week” would be met and that we were making progress, but honestly, I had moments when I cried and felt like I couldn’t do it.  The most valuable thing I learned from it all is that I should not spend a lot of time looking at the large picture – it can be too daunting viewed as a whole. One day, one step at a time is all that I was designed for. Each small accomplishment should get its full measure of satisfaction and celebration. One by one the hurdles got crossed and now I am sitting at the end of the course wondering how I got here. Once again, the passage of Time has created a miracle, a change.

I learned about home improvement, about hiring painters and contractors and overseeing projects. I learned about getting medical and financial records in place and ready for a move. I learned about selling and buying trucks and what goes into the making of a good trailer. I learned I had friends. I learned that hard things become easier when I pray about them and decide to trust that I’ve been heard. I learned that some things must be waited for and are beyond my control. I learned that having even one concrete task that I can do is a comfort and a blessing – get busy and do it – then look for the next thing.

The house in Florida has not sold yet, but we joke around saying we are homeless, because the house is empty and our “things” are in storage. Instead I’m going to remember that my goal was to be with more of my family and that has come to be.  If “home” is where my people are, I’m not homeless. Instead, I’ve come home.

 

More to come, because this is going to be interesting, a new page. Just sayin’…

A to Z Family Stories: H for Home Road

These stories are part of who we are and I want them recorded. Not all of them are pretty, but that is ok.  This is a collection of family stories that are told repeatedly anytime the Smith clan congregates during a vacation or a holiday.  I’m sure some of them are told more from my perspective than others but I welcome added insight from those involved.

Northern Wisconsin is pretty much the heart of nowhere. The small town I grew up near was over three hours from a major airport and two hours from any significant shopping, unless Farm and Fleet was your go-to store – it was only an hour away. When the girls were young we made weekly trips to the city of Duluth, Minnesota to meet with friends for a church service. It was an all day journey, often leaving in the dark early hours of winter, with our thermos of cocoa and breakfast food and not getting back until it was dark again. There were rituals of where to stop for lunch (Pizza Hut, cheese pizza with a pitcher of Mountain Dew} and what to listen to on the radio (Prairie Home Companion all the way home…). The two youngsters would often fall asleep in the back, strapped into their car seats.

But there was always a point at which the road began to sound different. There was a slowing, braking and a particular curve to the road. It was almost like the tires knew that there was no longer a white center line, no longer much traffic. It was “home road”. A voice in the back would start the chant, accompanied by rhythmic bouncing in the car seat. Soon they would both be singing the song, “ho-ome road, ho-ome road” in sleepy voices that got stronger over the last couple of miles. It was the song that signaled one more safe trip nearly ended, with the expectation of being done with that long stretch of forced inactivity. It meant homecoming.

On visits home, I never travel that stretch of country road without hearing that little mantra playing through my mind. We don’t live there anymore. It’s not a road that leads to home. But the funny thing is that the song itself has come to be applied to other places that I’ve called home. The same feelings of welcome and relief from travel are felt as I turn into my present long driveway, and in my mind I hear small voices singing the “home road” song. I’m just sayin’ it is a sweet thing to remember.

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Being Home, Being Restored

I love to travel. I love to be home.  Even though there is a lot here to be responsible for, and when I’m gone nature does it’s thing pretty much unchecked (the husband did mow the lawn) it is still a place that restores me. It begs me to take part, to pull a weed, pick up a few fallen branches, smell the mint and the rosemary, touch a mossy rock, marvel at a single strand of spider silk floating from somewhere to who knows where, hold my ears when the cicadas get all fired up. At some point there will come colder weather and it will change, but for now it is still the hot, humid, green glory of summer. Nature is more than amazing, it is God’s gift showing his thoughfulness, his love of beauty and drama, his attention to detail, his desire to nurture and uplift, his power to take down and start anew

If you need a spot of beauty in your day, come take a morning walk with me through the Oneacrewoods.

one of many paths
one of many paths

shapes, colors, texture, variety for our eyes to see
shapes, colors, texture, variety for our eyes to see

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They Left

Crying lately, sometimes outwardly, mostly inwardly. I think it helps. Crying maybe leaves room for hope because I have never been able to cry forever.

Today my so ordinary life has been putting the furniture back in place. The air mattresses are deflated and rolled up. The sheets and towels are washed. The extra dishes are back in the cupboard. All my secrets have been exposed, like the rolls of cat hair under the sofa, the disorder of my physical, mental and emotional worlds.

I love to have family visiting in my home, so why didn’t I end up with a home that had room for visitors? Didn’t God know? That’s silly. He knew we needed a few things to be inconvenient/gross/dangerous in order to bond. In order to make memories. I hope they remember how much I love them. How good it was to know I could still put the kayaks in the water and paddle a ways. How good it was to know I could still survive a little sleep deprivation. How good it was to become more familiar with their ways, their sayings, their pastimes, their clothing, They were easy keepers and I loved every minute. Maybe they will come again if I don’t make them sleep outside in a tent, and if the dog next door doesn’t bark all night. But we would have figured all that out if they had stayed longer than three nights. We would have.

A small inward cry as I miss them.

Cleaners and Neaters

For me, one of the nicest things about travel is that eventually I get to come home. Home, after two weeks away, is almost like someplace I’ve never been. It is a familiar, but still strange sort of place.

I get to use a full size tube of tooth paste.

My friends and family say they missed me.

There is an abundance of meaningful work to do.

I don’t have to wear dirty clothes unless I want to.

And oddly enough, instead of responding to unusual circumstances that present themselves only on rare occasions, I have to think about and be who I need to be for the long haul, the majority of day to day living. More about that later.

As I reacquaint myself with the house where I live with the husband, I am suddenly able to figure something out that I have wondered about for years.  We are different, the husband and I, and that’s good and serves a purpose. Here is my newest definition of a particular difference.

Some people are neat and tidy but not necessarily cleaners.

Other people makes lots of messes when they work but they are cleaners when it’s done.

Neaters and cleaners, that’s it.  I can think of so many examples of how this works out – like our paperwork and files.  Everything is stacked or filed (kept) meticulously, but usually it is only one of us who cleans and throws out the outdated and unnecessary.  Bathroom stuff is on its shelf or drawer, but only one of us wipes out the drawer and cleans the shelf. The dishwasher is loaded and run, but only one of us clears and cleans the counters and puts stuff away.  

Now unless you begin to think that the cleaner is in some way superior to the neater, let me say that it’s not true.  I am the cleaner (in case you haven’t figured it out) and I am capable of what I call “creative mess” at any moment.  I am following a trail and can’t be bothered with neatness along the way. Besides, I know I’m going to have to clean it up eventually, so I get to choose when. There is evidence of my creative side all over the house but the husband doesn’t often mind (or notice) as long as his stuff is in the pile where he put it (neatly). We were meant to coexist.

Those of us who love our homes will probably admit that the cleaning and organizing that we do is part of the “love”.  The satisfaction of making a difference, even if it’s only to clean a counter or rearrange a corner of the living room, is like getting to catch up with an old friend.  Yep, that’s what I’m doing today and it’s good to be home… I’m just sayin’.