She Was Home

She couldn’t remember how she got here, but there was an overwhelming clarity in this new place.

It was as though all the missing pieces she’d lost along the way had somehow made it back to her, filling her lungs with air and lighting her soul on fire.

It was unmistakable now. She knew exactly who she was and what she believed.

Distant hums of string instruments quieted the commotion of her consciousness.

She was home.

The brick walls around her were painted all the colors of her convictions — vibrant murals depicting all she cherished, loved, and lived for. And as she stood, as confident and unwavering as her harbor of masonry, she knew what wholeness felt like.

But it can be scary, isolating at times, in this space of stark certainty.

And in that moment she longed for something different.

Not something new, no — that wasn’t it.

Just something from another era.

The brightly painted walls began to peel and crumble.

The blood red clay beneath revealed; threatening.

The mortar continued to fall away faster than she could repair while the metallic tones of the violin inched their way closer,

and closer,

no longer calming now, but growing louder and faster, piercing her eardrums with their shrill high notes.

Each brick fell one by one to piles of dust at her feet, leaving her exposed and surrounded by unfamiliar paths.

But finally, silence.

It was then that she understood what the music was trying to tell her:

“Once you’ve arrived home is when the true journey begins.”

closeup of two sneakers on a red track surface, blue sky with pine trees in the distance

A New Season

Something changes when you become a writer.

Time slows.

You begin to savor the tiniest experiences.

You breathe in the details and your mind races for the perfect descriptions to relive them through written word.

Simplicities become complexities, yet somehow, everything seems simpler.

Spring is breaking, and it’s a perfect day for a run on the track outside the college
where I work.

I’m completely alone, with no noise but the rustling trees among distant creaks and
bellows of construction equipment. The bite of the hot sun on my forehead is tempered
by the stubborn breeze.

The track ahead is wide and striped, inviting me in like a blank sheet of notepad paper
awaiting a story.

What will the words be today?

There’s no feeling quite like the moments just before that first stride, especially in
solitude. But am I ready? It’s been so long.

I stare down the center lane of the track to where the lines converge and disappear
around the first bend.

It seems so far away.

“4 laps.”
The Mom in me urges in one ear.
“Just 4 laps is a mile—you can handle that.”

The Writer in me argues back.
“Just one lap. Just do one lap and see how it goes. Just take it one step at a time.”

I’m nowhere near the athlete I was before my daughter was born.

It was always my intention to maintain it as much as I could, throughout pregnancy and
after she was born. Not being a very emotionally resilient person, I’ve always defined my personal strength by my physical strength—logic being that if I can’t carry the weight of life with a strong heart, I’ll do it with strong arms and physical endurance. But new priorities yield new bodies, and now it seems I can barely make it up the stairs without feeling winded.

I start down the track at a light jog, and pin my eyes to the rows of pines on the horizon
instead of the next distance marker painted on the brick-red path.

Last year, I may have picked up speed and tried to beat a time.
Today, I pace myself, allowing the wind to fill my lungs with every intentional breath.

Last year, I’d have stayed tight and narrow between the lines.
Today, I waver back and forth across lanes, focused more on relaxing my shoulders
than the placement of each foot.

I don’t want this uninhibited moment to become a chore.
I won’t push myself or chide myself, for once.
I’ll move my body because it feels right, not because I have something to prove.
Today, I want to slow time; to bottle up every intricate detail of this moment so I can
hold this story.

The pounding of my shoes on the hard rubber drowns out the sound of far off voices
and singing birds. I can feel my heartbeat rising and I’m tempted to increase my pace
in tandem, but my chest feels heavy and burdened.

Running is a stranger to me now.

It feels choppy and a little forced—so much different than the smooth glide of my pen
on paper that I’ve come of relish.

I slow my pace to a fast walk rounding the fourth bend, and come to a stop at my
starting place.

I think that’s enough for today.

The track surface is warm and grainy as I lower myself down to my back. I tuck my
hands tightly to my sides and stretch out, perfectly centered between the middle lane
markers, gazing up at the unobstructed sky. Wiry clouds streak across the vast blue
canvas like cotton stretched on a loom. A blissful end to this chapter.

Something changes when you become a mother.

Time quickens.

And the desire to slow it down alters perspectives beyond measure.

I’m not the same person I was before motherhood.
Not physically. Not mentally. Not emotionally.

In this new season I no longer feel controlled by my limitations. I know what my body can do. I’ve seen what my spirit can conquer. Any strength that left my muscles has infiltrated and reenforced my mind. Though my lung capacity has waned, my heart is overflowing with love.

In these poetic complexities—this is where my time slows.

In embracing new gifts—this is where everything feels simpler.

And in this new season, my life is full.

Dining room with parquet flooring and moving boxes scattered about

The Hole in my Heart Where Home Used to Be

— *at home
1 : relaxed and comfortable : at ease

This morning, Facebook reminded me that exactly one year ago was the last time I set foot in the house I considered home for nearly 30 years.

Two years after my parents put it on the market, the sign on the lawn now read SALE PENDING, and my husband and I were there to sift through boxed up items that I may or may not want to keep. An interesting process—digging up childhood memories and then painstakingly choosing which of them are worth keeping evidence of. There’s simply not enough room in one’s basement for an entire life’s worth of sentimental trinkets and mementos, especially not with a baby on the way.

I don’t know what it’s like to move around multiple times throughout your childhood and teenage years. But I do know that when home is one single place for that fundamental time of your life, the physical space becomes so much more than a dwelling. It takes on a life of its own—a permanent fixture that deeply roots itself in your soul, grabbing hold a little bit stronger with each passing day.

For me, up until a year ago, 123 West Street was home. We moved there when I was three years old, and it’s the first house that my memory can recall. A sparkling new cape cod set up on a hill; a mansion in the eyes of a three-year-old. I remember going to see it before we even moved in—standing in the doorway staring into the empty kitchen—the cherry cabinets and the white and grey speckled linoleum floor.

It was almost a blank slate; kind of like I was. And then, year by year, I watched it grow and evolve right along with me. The brick red siding changed to a muted taupe after a damaging hail storm. The front door, once robin’s egg blue, turned to a peachy salmon. The bare backyard sprouted a multi-level deck, and the barren land behind it slowly transformed from dirt paths and tall grass to a grid of houses and connecting streets.

The formal dining room with parquet floors remained empty for a few years while my hardworking parents saved to fill it with furniture that would do it justice. When we first moved in, every morning my father would carry me down the stairs on his shoulders.

OK, now close your eyes, he would say—

—then briskly walk me around the house, stopping suddenly in one place and telling me to guess what room we were in. That empty dining room, always the easiest one for me to call out. Something about the way the morning sun shined in through the bay window—I could feel the warmth on the side of my face, and it seemed brighter than any other room as the light infiltrated my tiny, translucent eyelids. It soon became the central hub for our family gatherings and memories, packed so full of love and life that you could barely squeeze by the table to make it to your seat.

— *at home
2 : in harmony with the surroundings

Saying goodbye was so much harder than I expected it to be. Sure, I had left it behind when I moved out for college, but it was always there for me to return to if I needed familiar ground to feel rooted and secure. Whenever I felt suspended and hanging in the balance of an uncharted future, I always had the key back to that comfort.

But on that final day, the reality knocked me over the head like some stranger in a dark alley putting me out to rob me of my identity. This was actually it—I’d never be able to go back.

I paced the house, sitting on the floor of each room and stared at the bare walls, as if they were screens projecting scenes of my past before my tear-filled eyes.

I was five again, bursting with excitement as I pulled a piece of torn, red-velvet cloth out of the fireplace on Christmas morning—the one that my dad had cleverly deposited there as proof that Santa was real.

I was nine or ten, sprawled out on the teal colored living room rug, watching in awe as the giant colorful balloons moved across the TV screen in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I breathed in deeply the smell of turkey and pumpkin pie, anxiously awaiting the arrival of loved ones.

I was 16, in the dawn of self-discovery, whispering teen girl chatter with friends in my brightly colored, flower-adorned bedroom—clusters of photos and band posters plastered on my walls screaming to anyone who entered, this is me! (though I really had no clue yet).

I was 21, visiting home from college and sitting peacefully on the covered back patio as torrential rain fell down around me. I watched the flashes of lightening and listened to the crashes of thunder, feeling sheltered from this storm, and from the chaos that had become my life.

— *at home
3 : on familiar ground

One of the reasons I fell in love with the house my husband and I purchased together was that it immediately felt familiar the first time we walked in. Maybe it was the fact that it, too, is a cape cod (though older and a little smaller). Or the fact that it had only belonged to one family (for 60+ years) prior—so I understood the ache they were feeling when they had to turn it over to us.

Their real estate agent had told us it was important to them that the home went to a nice, young couple who would raise a family there. And so it did. Now, it’s slowly beginning to take root in our hearts, as our first home as husband and wife and as the first home our daughter will ever know.

I’ve only driven by 123 West Street a handful of times since the day I had to say goodbye. It’s home to a new family now—a family of four that apparently hated the salmon colored door and clearly doesn’t enjoy landscaping upkeep as much as my mother did. But it’s theirs now to make their own, to shelter them in this chapter of their lives and become a part of their own story.

In my farewell post last year, I wrote:

It feels like 2200 square feet of roots and familiarity being ripped out from under me

—and I still feel that void.

It’s gradually filling though. Each new memory and life experience; each month spent in my now home with my husband and baby girl, is a shovel full of dirt piling into that hole in my heart.

The familiar structure of wood and warmth that I left behind will never crumble under the weight of new years, but forever be an anchor that grounds my past.

I will cherish it always.

*–Merriam Webster Dictionary