Long Ride Home

Currently returning from a trip to New York City visiting my friend Emily. The night before I left, I was tired and not terribly enthused about departing from home, but I had purchased bus tickets when my spirits and energy levels were high, so I was going regardless of my current feelings on the matter.

I stepped off the bus into a sea of humidity and grey rain clouds, and was greeted by Emily’s smiling face. My initial hesitations over the trip vanished as we embraced and began making plans for the rest of the day. We began by walking through the gardens of the High Line. The sun came out and a breeze whipped up, clearing out the humidity and the clouds. And then began the dominating activity of the next three days: exploring and imagining myself living an everyday life in each new spot.

I chose the bench on the High Line walk where I would take my journal to write in as I looked over the water. I made a list of the restaurants in Chelsea Market which I would systematically work through until I had tasted all the flavors it had to offer. I saw the bookstores I would frequent and the farmers market from which I would walk home with wildflowers and fresh vegetables. I picked the apartment rooftop where I would host lively dinner parties, and the fire escape where I would sit in the mornings with my coffee. I eyed Emily’s apartment and determined where I could make space for my KitchenAid mixer, and made plans for how I would store my Christmas decorations. My fantastical New York self would fit right in here; I was sure of it.

Best of all, this life had no complications. Faceless friends would populate it, but as I didn’t know who they were, there were no worries about finding them and no danger of their leaving afterward. I had all kinds of time in this picture– never a dull moment but never one too busy either. My bank account obviously would stretch to accommodate all the things I wanted to do and try. In this life I was always happy and carefree.

I’ve gone through this exercise often enough to see the escapist tendency that lies behind it. I know my ideal picture is truly a fantasy–expanded and overblown to the point where it is entirely unrealistic and unattainable.

Riding back to D.C. forces me to remember that my fantasy has no real bearing on the reality of my day-to-day. I’m attempting to avoid thinking about the slow drains in the bathroom, or the headlight out in my car, or the loneliness I felt last week. At least, I’m trying not to focus solely on them, these reminders of a less-than-perfect life. There are other glad things to return to as well: my own bed, my overflowing bookshelves, my deck with its herbs (hopefully) surviving the rain, my church with my Scottish pastor, and my very real friends who have faces and who love me in my weaknesses. The Good, Very Good, and the Less Than Ideal are all joined together into a real and concrete state of blessedness.

 

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On Coming Home

Same same, but different
Yesterday your fingers recalled
How it felt to play Christmas songs
On the piano with a rattling F key–
The piano which is rightfully yours,
Except for as much as you miss it
You still have no space in your house.

The day before, your feet stayed warm
Inside boots two sizes too big.
You found them in a dusty box in the basement,
The basement which is also full, incidentally,
Of everything you’ve forgotten
But might need, someday.

Today you sat by a Christmas tree
And opened a gift from your parents:
A Nativity scene
Which looks like a miniature of the one you used to unpack–
Each year looking for a fragile baby Jesus
Hidden inside old newspapers.

Last week, coming home had different expectations
You had planned on divesting yourself
Of accomplishments and stories,
Then leaving with a lightened load.
How could you forget?
They fill your suitcase every time
Until the zippers fear bursting.

Homecoming

Tell us about what home meant to you this year.

Home is a moving target. It used to be simple, calling someplace home, because that always  meant the small, unassuming house in Michigan, with the extra-large kitchen and a multitude of siblings.

But home is other places too. Home is Grand Rapids, sharing a room with my cousin and watching NCIS while drinking frozen cokes.

Home is Maryland, in a schoolhouse with painted walls and a broken stovetop, sitting with a blanket, a roommate, and homemade cookies.

Home is also Virginia, in more houses than I deserve, where conversations stretch far into the night as we eat cake and make plans.

Anyone could tell you that home is never really about a location.  We move and we put down roots and then we move again. The blessing and the bittersweet is that we can have so many homes in our lives, an overabundance of spaces with people and memories attached.

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Miriam Adeney