I have a small confession to make.
Last week I was not where you think I was. I was on vacation. Announcing to the blogoshere that my house was going to be vacant for a week didn’t seem responsible. So – have computer, will travel.
We enjoyed a week at Virginia Beach visiting my parents. The fireworks display was fantastic on July 4th, but I think watching it laying on the beach, with both of my children resting their heads on my chest and my husband lying next to me, holding my hand, made it surreal.
My parents moved there two years ago, after calling Texas home for almost 30 years. I was really sad to know that we wouldn’t be spending anymore holidays in my childhood home. In fact, the last Christmas spent there, we didn’t even know that would be our last. Shortly after our annual road trip down south, my parents were burglarized twice, both times leaving a tornado of debris in the process. Furniture was destroyed, property damaged, and most unfortunate, family heirlooms stolen that will never be recovered. After the second violation, my mom just didn’t feel safe there anymore, so when my dad had an opportunity to make an amazing career change out-of-state – well, they took it without question. Plus, Virginia put them two hours from my mother’s brother and his family as well as closer to my dad’s family in Connecticut. It was a win, win situation for them.
Their first Christmas in Virginia was also close to my mom’s 60th birthday. I decided to surprise her and fly in the day after Christmas and stay a few days. I just couldn’t imagine not see her during the holidays. Afterall, a 36 year habit is hard to break. My dad did a great job keeping everything a secret. Both of my brothers were also in on the surprise and were there waiting as well. It was a wonderful birthday celebration, but I really have to say that I felt like a guest. Perhaps it was the few boxes still stacked in the hallway, or maybe the fact that I couldn’t seem to find anything in the kitchen anymore. But their townhouse did not feel like home to me. All the furniture was familiar, the faces were the same, but the overall mood was altered.
I felt homesick.
Their first summer there, we came to visit as a family and stayed only a few days. I had hoped that being there once before would make things feel more familiar the second time. But it was still the same. The only difference being that I was trying to get used to not only my own blind dance through the house, but my children were learning to get acclimated to Mimi and Papa’s new layout. Everyone was struggling to figure out our new “routine” too, because before the move, we didn’t usually stay overnight but spent hours at a time with my parents, and then returned to my in-law’s home to sleep. It was easier to have one place unpacked while on an extended vacation rather than float between two households, living like gypsies out of carpet bags. But now, there was only one family to visit and we were all learning each other’s bedtime and morning routines and personal space.
I still felt homesick.
This Christmas I did not come visit. Instead, my parents, both of my brothers and my future sister-in-law came to Michigan at Thanksgiving to celebrate the holidays together, as well as my dad’s 60th birthday. It was the first time ever that I had my whole family under my roof. I got to be the hostess, the grown-up, for a change and enjoy my family in my own space. I could definitely feel the dynamics change, a shift from “parent-child” to “parent-adult”. My brothers treated me less like the “sister” but more as a close, comfortable friend. It also gave me a little bit of holiday closure too. A new tradition had been implemented, and I had survived. And when we drove down to Texas again for Christmas last year, the emptiness I had felt the previous year had dissipated. My heart was full of happiness to be spending time with my in-laws and brother-in-law, instead of bitterness for not being able to see my own parents, or anxiety of a new Christmas tradition.
I drove past my childhood home over that holiday break. The bones were standing firm, but the flesh had started to deteriorate already. My dad’s beautiful yard now looked like the Christmas center at Walmart. Dozens of lighted, blow-up decorations saluted us from the front lawn. No more of my mom’s New England inspired charm welcomed the front walk, instead rows of plastic candy canes lined the walkway, and fake holly swags hung across the front porch. I did not know this house anymore.
Again, I felt homesick.
The girls enjoyed a long weekend in Virginia this past February all by themselves. It was the first time that they had both flown without me. An adventure for The Hare. A moment of panic for The Tortoise. (She is a lot like me – we worry too much.) It was strange without them for the weekend, but a welcome change. DW and I have never been without children for an extended period of time since our honeymoon. It was like we were on vacation too.
So here we are – summer 2010. Heading back to Virginia. There was a little bit of uncertainty in my mind. I now understood that my childhood home was long gone, but our last trip to Virginia still had me shuffling around dazed and confused. A guest in my parent’s house. But the moment we stepped inside that townhouse this year, something was different. The house felt settled this time. The girls ran right upstairs to their room – they knew exactly where to go. DW brought our suitcases up to our room confidently, as if he had made that trip a thousand times. No more boxes were stacked in the hallway, and I could easily find my way around the kitchen. These walls felt warm, secure. Familiar.
I was home.