I remember standing out in the driveway, saying goodbye. He had mistakenly called school, the place he was returning to after some break or other, called it "Home." I laughed at his mistake and he looked at me, all seriousness, with a shrug and a nod. "Yes. Home."
And all of these years later I can still remember how my stomach sunk like a stone, how I walked back inside and thought about it long after his car made that right-hand turn toward the expressway, putting us farther and farther behind him. How it just didn't sit right, and I marveled - how could Home ever be..replaced?
It's been years since I've thought of it, but this afternoon I went looking for my Mom. I walked out my back yard, past our overgrown and long neglected garden, right up to the beginning of the path Dad laid right down about 5 years ago. I walked past the barn he painted green that summer, long and lean balanced up on the ladder, paint speckling his shoes and our faces as we watched from below. I followed the path around the enormous beech tree out back where you can always find the shed skins of cicadas in the late summertime, ringed by Mom's hostas. I stuck my head in that back door and hollered for what must be the eighty billionth time in my life through that creaky, 160 year old house. "Moooooooom?!?"
She ended up being over at Dad's office, as usual, working hard but always ready with a smile for me, even in midday when she had a lot on her plate.
I never thought I'd end up here, but enough years have gone by and the thought of ever leaving breaks my heart. I think of coffee on Saturday mornings with my Dad, slipping out before the kids are up to see how he's doing. Or glancing out my kitchen window and seeing straight into theirs, my Mom's face reflected back at me as she washes supper dishes in the sink. I think of them stopping in to take a kid with them when they walk to the post office. Of my kids running cookies we baked over to the office in the middle of a snowy winter's day.
These days, I'm noticing that what started out as them keeping a close eye on me during those early days of marriage and babies, has morphed into me keeping a close eye on them. Being here, always, just in case. Mom tells me: "In the bible, when God wanted to bless people, he always gathered them together." I'm gathered right up, here, in my place, with my people. My home. My past and present is etched into my memories in this place, this landscape. The twirl of seasons that saw me grow from pink bundle brought home on a Spring day to a Mama of nearly 6 of my very own.
Maybe I never got to live in a variety of places. Maybe I'll never make a home for myself far from anything I've ever known. But I call living here a blessing. In this little nothing town in the Midwest that never seems to amount to much. Just here, gathered up with the ones I love.
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