In recent days I’ve had reason to consider my story. I’ve had reason to ponder the forks in the road and the winding path that led me to where I am today. Who would have ever thought that a simple move in the fifth grade would have forged so many ties that continue to this day? Who could have seen, as a ten year-old, that the scope of time leading to the future was unfurling in God’s invisible sovereignty?
The home my parents bought back in 1985 is theirs yet today. The street has seen change and consistency in equal measure: families coming and going, outgrowing the constraints of brick and mortar. Others stayed and made due, planting trees and watching them grow to maturity. Tilling gardens and enjoying the slant of the sun on their backyard patios. That’s my parents—patio people; wading through days and months on that street, tucked snugly beneath the leaves of a now giant Sycamore tree we planted decades ago.
It amazes me to look back and see the quiet hand of God in our move to that house: only one block away from a woman who remains, even now, one of my dearest friends. Only one block away from a boy I barely knew growing up, but through the fire and heat of college has gone on to become a brother in the truest sense of the word. Only one block away from the man I would fall in love with at 14…and go on to marry.
Going home to visit my parents ignites many memories, as it undoubtedly does for anyone who returns to their childhood home, and I am reminded how blessed I am to remain so close to them. I know that I can call my mom and, if needed, I can be to her–or she to me–in 15 minutes. There to help me bring a new baby home, stoop next to me in a laundry pile, stop by with a gallon of milk and some of her chicken soup…all gifts of proximity I am determined to appreciate fully.
My own mother did not enjoy such serendipity; she moved away from her own parents’ small Minnesota town right after high school, and visits with my grandparents became few, by necessity and geography. I don’t know how she did it: managing children and home and finances, burning cookies or not, making meals with older generations rarely present at the table—all things foreign to me (except the cookies maybe!) Before email and blogs and FaceBook and text messaging and free long distance, communication was limited to weekends, and the minutes were rationed for us all. We all stored up love from month to month, waiting for the calendar pages to turn to the months of summer when we’d pile in our Olds’ 98 Wagon and make the trek to the farmlands west of the Mississippi. For me, the wait seemed eternal. I can only imagine for my mom, missing her own mother and father, the wait must have wrung her heart dry.
As a mom myself, I can appreciate how raising children with the luxury and legacy of involved grandparents is an enormous gift. I often wonder how my grandma, alone now in Minnesota, carries the weight of children far-off. There’s an old Emmylou Harris song (Calling My Children Home) that I love and that brings her to mind every time I hear it. I’m listing only part of the lyrics below, but I think it will be enough for you to feel the yearning of the mother’s voice:
Those lives were mine to love and cherish.
To guard and guide along life’s way.
Oh God forbid that one should perish.
That one alas should go astray.
Back in the years with all together,
Around the place we’d romp and play.
So lonely now and oft’ times wonder,
Oh will they come back home some day.
I’m lonesome for my precious children,
They live so far away.
Oh may they hear my calling…calling…
and come back home some day.
My husband and I are already indoctrinating our kids with the idea that they ‘aren’t allowed’ to move far away from us. I know, I know–apron strings! Still, going six or eight or ten months without their company, their smiles, their arms around me, would diminish any sparkle that might reside in my eyes. I don’t want to be the mom they visit on Thanksgiving and for the Fourth. I don’t want to be the grandma living time zones away. I want the closeness of home. The closeness of those I love and to whom I’ve given my life.