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Posts Tagged ‘home’

‎The first inkling that it was coming happened about a year ago. A random Facebook message, a couple of emails and a quick survey to determine interest. After that I kind of forgot about it – or more truthfully I blocked it from my mind with sheer willpower and an unwavering belief that it couldn’t be, could it?

Has it really been that long?

No way, impossible, I’m not anywhere close to old enough!

And then this week, another Facebook message. It’s official; it’s happening, my 20 year high school reunion.

Groan.

I don’t yet know any of the details. I don’t know the where (except it will be “back home” in the city I grew up in which is 3,000 miles from where I live now), or the when (except for a vague reference to “sometime in the summer”). Apparently more information to follow.

I was much more definitive ten years ago (yes, no matter how I try to deny it, it has been that long) when it came time for the ten year reunion. There was never a doubt in my mind that I would go, of course I would! I was still in touch with a handful of friends from back then so I hopped on a plane with my then one and a half year old daughter and headed “home” to a place I hadn’t lived in half a dozen years. She spent the night with the grandparents and I had dinner with a friend before heading out. The anticipation was high.

It ended up being something of a letdown. In reality, I’m not sure if these things can be anything but. The venue was sketchy, the “appetizers” ‎were iffy and the DJ played the music so loud that you could hardly have a conversation with the person next to you.

I remember looking around the room and feeling like a character in a bad made-for-TV movie. Over in that corner, the jock who put on 50 pounds. Over by the bowl of Doritos, the party girl who still dressed like she’s 17. It all felt so clichéd.

Sure, it was nice to see a few people I had lost touch with and a couple more that I’d always wondered about, but mostly it became a reminder that we stay connected to the people that we want to stay connected to. The rest fall away for a reason.

Ten years was long enough for people to change but not so long as to be reinvented. Everyone was still familiar in a vague, “sure, I remember you” kind of way with not enough time having passed to do any really great things, or any really bad things for that matter.

And I could still see myself as I was in high school. I could still remember who I had been at 17. Although the gap between 17 and 27 had meant a few changes of address, a university degree, a wedding and a baby (among other things), I didn’t feel like I was drastically different from who I had been.

But now, another ten years on from that, that girl is so distant, so faded, so far removed that I’m not even sure I could dust her off for another round. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing – I wouldn’t want to be 17 again – and everyone else in the room won’t be 17 again either but the thought is just exhausting.

Awkward small talk while nursing a class of white wine in a plastic cup. Avoiding eye contact with my best friend from back then, with whom I had a falling out 12 years ago and haven’t spoken to since. Agonizing over what to wear – the fine line between trying too hard and not trying hard enough is a dangerous one to navigate. Running into an ex and discovering he has not aged well or worse, that he has. An evening of “remember when’s” that‎ no one really remembers. Forced smiles, exchanging emails, a dozen new Facebook friends that weren’t friends then and definitely aren’t now.

The thought of it just makes me tired.

I tell myself I will wait; I won’t make a decision right away. Maybe I will change my mind, maybe I will be hit with a wave of nostalgia so powerful that I will book a plane ticket and make an appointment to have my hair highlighted.

Maybe.

But I doubt it.

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the library

A special shout out to the Eagle-Eyed Editor for passing along this writing prompt in response to my “stuck on repeat” post.  As soon as I saw this suggestion on the list, I knew I had to write it.

“The Library that means the most to you.”

When my daughter was eight months old we moved to a new house, in a town about half an hour from where we used to live.  I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know where anything was, I didn’t know anything.  I was also on maternity leave which meant I had hours upon hours upon hours alone with my daughter during the day.  And, as those of you with kids know, there are only so many hours you can spend playing with Duplo before your brain begins to shrink.  After just a week of being in the house, I was bored.  I needed to find something.

So I packed my daughter up in the stroller and off we went, looking for something.  What we found was the library.

It was only about a 15 minute walk from our house, down a beautiful tree-lined street.  It was September, the leaves were changing and the whole street seemed to be on fire.  The library was at the end of the street, an old, dark, depressing looking building but, upon closer inspection, I could see some construction trucks tucked in behind.  They were in the process of building a new library, right behind where the old one stood.  Once it was done they would tear down the old one and put in a courtyard where it used to be.  It wasn’t much to look at, but it was what was inside that mattered.

We made our way up the ramp that led us to the second floor.  I had to struggle to get the stroller through the door and I was wondering if maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all.  But once I got inside I knew I was home.  All of the books, shelf upon shelf upon shelf.  The light was dim, the carpet was dark, the windows were small but I didn’t care.  My eyes adjusted quickly and my heart beat faster; I hardly knew where to begin.

I don’t remember how long we stayed that first day.  Knowing my daughter as she was at that age, she probably gave me 10 or 15 minutes before she started to fuss and whine in her stroller, no longer entertained by the crackers or toys or keys from my pocket.  I can’t remember how long we stayed but I can pretty much guarantee that by the time we left, the bottom basket was full of books.  I probably never even read half of them but just the idea that I could if I wanted to was enough, it was enough for me that day.  When my brain was shrinking from stacking and unstacking blocks all day, I could read a book and feel better, feel human, feel like maybe I could still matter.

As overly dramatic and cheesy as it may sound, I feel like that library saved me.  Whenever the walls of my house felt like they were closing in, I went to the library.  Whenever I felt out of touch with the rest of the world, I went to the library.  Whenever I just wanted 10 minutes to flip through the latest edition of People magazine and find out what the Kardashians were up to, I went to the library.  It helped me remember, if only for a few minutes, who I used to be.  When I used to read and read and read, hardly coming up for air, when I used to dream of one day writing a book that someone else would devour in the same way I had devoured the words of others.  Slowly I began to come back into focus.

When the new library opened, I went through the doors that first day and stood in awe at the floor to ceiling windows, the spacious aisles, the comfy arm chairs.  It was beautiful and filled with so many new books I hardly knew what to do with myself.

Nine years later we still live in the same little town but we’re in a different house and sadly, we’re no longer walking distance to the library.  No matter, I’m still there at least three times a week.  My hubby jokes that it’s my second home.  It’s really not a joke though because, next to my own home it’s the place where I feel most at peace.  There’s just something about being surrounded by all of those words, all of those ideas; it simultaneously makes me feel incredibly small and yet part of something incredibly big.

Maybe one day my name will be on one of of the books on one of those shelves.  Maybe one day someone who is lost, like I was, will find it and not feel so lost anymore.  Maybe.  You never know, amazing things can happen.

Especially at the library.

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Ottawa

I’ve tried to explain it to people, the connection I feel to this place , but I can never find the right words.

“I love it here,” I say to them, but it doesn’t encompass it, doesn’t even begin to wrap itself around the feeling I get when I’m here.
I fell in love here; I’m sure that’s part of it. I met the man who would become my family here. Around every corner there are memories, places we visited, conversations we had. I found love, understanding, friendship here, but I also found so much more.

I found myself here.

I found out who I was away from everything I knew. I figured out how to be me, apart from all of them.

I made choices based on my own opinions, nothing else. I discovered I was stronger than I thought, but also more fragile. I realized it was okay to lean on others, to ask for help, and to accept it. I learned that being independent is important but so too is knowing that together we are so much stronger.

I went where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go. I discovered that getting lost was half the fun. I learned that with a bus pass and a map, the city opened up in front of me like a treasure chest.

I have lived in places that I loved, before and since, but no other place has ever felt like home in the same way. It become a part of me, a part of my story, writing its words and painting its pictures on the pages of my life.

When I feel sad and alone, it is the place I dream of going. It somehow fills the cracks left by everyday life, makes them smooth again. After every visit, no matter how short, I feel invigorated, as though I have found something I didn’t know was missing.

I am drawn to its streets, long-lost memories flooding my brain. I want to turn to the person next to me and tell them stories, all of the things that happened here, the minutia of time well spent.

I remember who I was here. I remember the girl with the dreams, the hopes, the belief that things were possible. And her imagination rubs off on me, the woman she has become, too often jaded and disheartened by the intervening years.

She makes me start to believe again, she makes me want to live up to all the expectations she had for us.

And so as the car speeds down the highway and I have to once again say goodbye, I am not sad. I know I will come again, and when I do I know it will be here waiting to welcome me back.

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Apparently the call came on Monday morning. I say apparently because, as is often the case with these family things, the news took some time to make its way down the tangled branches of the family tree to where I am.

They got the call Monday morning and I got my call on Monday night. The news traveled to the west coast and back, predetermined by some kind of family hierarchy which still alludes me.

No matter. I knew it would come eventually.

“They have a room available for her,” my mom said. “She moves on Thursday.”

And there it was. Ready or not; the time had come. The day that we had all been anxiously awaiting with equal parts anticipation and dread for the last year or so had now arrived. We knew in our heads it was the right thing, the practical thing, the smart thing. But now, faced with the reality of an actual date and a definite time, it didn’t seem quite so right, quite so smart.

I managed to hold it together for the rest of that night and most of the following day. In the arguments that took place between my head and my heart, my head was most often the victor. It’s time. There are no other options. This is for the best. And for the 24 hours after the call I even almost convinced myself that I believed it.

I believed it until it occurred to me that after more than 61 years together, my grandparents would soon be spending their last night in the same bed. They would no longer brush their teeth together at the same sink, pull up the same blankets around their chins, wake up in the same room, looking out the same window.

Ready or not.

I believed it until I started to wonder what will go through each of their minds as they lay down that first night apart, now miles away from each other? Will my grandfather question the decision that ultimately was his to make? Will my grandmother’s disease finally become more of a blessing than a burden, the fog under which she now lives blissfully shielding her from the new reality?

And then I couldn’t hold it together any longer. I sought refuge in the shower, thankful for the water pouring out of the shower head, disguising my tears; grateful for the sound of the water drowning out my sobs. As sad as I was for them, I knew that selfishly, the tears were actually for me. The reality finally sinking in that we could never go back. Never go back to a time when my grandmother ruled that house, aware of all that went on within its four walls, so capable, so loving, so everything a grandmother should be.

Never will we go back to a time when I would stumble out of my bed each morning of my summer vacation and find her sitting quietly at the kitchen table writing in her diary, as she did each day for as long as I can remember. I would sit beside her and we would plan our day – a movie, some shopping, a walk “down street” to pick up lottery tickets.

The adult in me knows we can’t go back; that she hasn’t been able to do those things for many years. But the child inside still clung to the hope that maybe she would come back, be her old self again, return to what she once was just as quickly as she had slipped away. That as long as she stayed in that house it would be possible, not likely, but possible.

Ready or not.

Tonight she will spend what is most likely her last night in her house, the only home she has known for the past 40 years. She will have a little bag packed for her and make her way slowly down the two steps and out the front door and that will be that.

Ready or not.

She will come back from time to time, but more as a visitor than the woman of the house. If there is any kindness at all in her disease I hope she doesn’t understand, doesn’t realize, doesn’t grasp the reality of what is happening, of the decision that has been made for her.

I don’t know what it will be like to visit her somewhere other than that house, to form memories of her in a new place, separate from the things that I associate with her, apart from my grandfather, still a couple but perhaps no longer the team they always seemed to be.

I will try to be strong, put on a smile and say things like “you seem to be settling in well” and “here’s some flowers to brighten up your room.” I will try to make the words come out, to not get stuck in my throat, tangled with all the words that I really want to say – that she doesn’t belong there, that it’s not her home, that there must be some other option.

But I know there isn’t another option, just like I know she’s not ever going to go back to being the grandmother that I remember. We all just have to try and make the best of things as they are. Time will continue to move on, and we will each have to adapt to things as they are now, not as they used to be.

Whether we’re ready to, or not.

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home

There’s no food in the fridge except a half-eaten, squishy watermelon and two dozen bottles of varying types of condiments. There’s not even a splash of milk to make myself a cup of tea.

There are four suitcases and three backpacks sitting just inside the front door waiting to be emptied. Once they are, it will mean at least three loads of laundry and more trips up and down the stairs than I care to imagine.

I haven’t yet dared go down to the basement for fear of what I will find there. Our lovely cat has a fondness for throwing up down there, preferring to do the deed on the hard-to-clean Berber rather than the easy-to-clean hardwood. I’ve decided I can’t deal with it until later…much later.

We are home from our vacation now. Back to the place where there are errands to be done, bills to be paid, beds to be made, meals to be prepared.

I’m sad that it’s over; this trip that has been in the works for almost two years. No more counting down the days; it has now come and gone, leaving behind a camera filled with pictures and a lifetime of memories.

But as sad as it is, I’m equally glad to be back home, to this perfectly imperfect place. Without the day-to-day demands, the escape from them would not be as sweet.

So for now we are home, surrounded once again by what we know and recognize, but I hope that one day soon there will be another countdown in anticipation of another adventure yet to come.

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