There, not here

If you are from where I am, you can use your left hand as a visual aid to point out where in the state you are now, where you are going, and where you’ve been. For example, right now I’m about where the thumb joins the main part of the hand. I recently traveled  to a region near the pinky finger. Around here you can say you are going “Up North” and those in the know will nod their heads in understanding. I went for the first time in two summers. How did I let so much time pass? I guess we were consumed with the anxiety of an adoption referral last summer, as well as squirrelling away money and resources for a trip to China and the arrival of baby girl. This recent trip was a short visit, only two nights and three days. But it was there, not here. There is where I was me. There meant sleeping in. Sipping coffee on the back porch overlooking deep woods sloping to a trickling stream. There was a place where no sippy cups were filled or spilled. Where books could be read at leisure on a sandy beach, music played late into the night and midnight walks were a possibility. There is a place that is not here.Here in zombieland: very little is spontaneous, and quality time comes early in the day, my schedule is not my own. I wish I could find a way to hang on to the tranquility I achieve there, stuff bits of it into my pocket to pull out when needed. So far, all I’ve found are lint balls and Cheerios.

Legacies and lilacs

When I started this blog two months ago, I envisioned myself dedicating at least one hour a night — yeah, I’ll wait for the laughter to subside — to learning how to do this blog thing.So far it hasn’t been too successful. First of all, it’s summer. In Michigan. Which is like, maybe two months of nice weather if we’re lucky. So we Michiganders tend to blow off all things linked to responsibility during this break from the mostly lousy weather we get in this region. I guess we figure well, we have all winter to do THAT. So, the insides of my home get a little cobwebby while I labor or play outdoors.This year we have the added joy of an almost 19-month-old bundle of energy bounding around our home. I find that it sometimes takes ALL DAY to get a basket of laundry down to the basement laundry room, where heaps of forgotten wet towels are growing mildew in the washer. It’s wonderful to have baby girl in our lives. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But it is a huge challenge to keep up with all that a home demands along with a teen and a toddler and each of their own needs.Layered on top of these challenges and joys is the knowledge that others are suffering in these lousy economic times here in Michigan. I told you earlier about a family we know that faces the reality of losing their home. In the midst of this we learned another friend (more to my husband; not really to me, but that’s another story) has taken his life. The reasons are complicated and not easily broken down into digestible pieces. Was it his past that haunted him? Was it the most recent failures and medical issues that devastated him emotionally and financially? Was it uncertainty about his own personal identity and orientation that drove him to jump off a bridge to his death?He left behind no spouse. No  children. Not even a clearly defined sense of family ties. There was no funeral. No death notice. Nothing. A lot of loose ends and unanswered questions. It’s as if he never was here at all.So this led me to reexamine much about my life, my priorities. Of course there is dissatisfaction. I wasn’t born rich or beautiful. I didn’t invent anything or save any lives. It’s hard to say what my purpose is in this life other than to be 50 percent of a relationship and mother to two girls. I ended an almost 20-year career without a plan for what to do next. Most days I feel as if I’m just existing. Is this enough? Shouldn’t I be contributing? But I do know I am here for a reason.There is a lady who lives down the street from me who knew the original owner of my home, c. 1941. I’ve learned they were a married couple with no children. The woman’s name was Jeannette. They had an affinity for the color yellow. The husband was into woodworking and has left his touch throughout the house.  There were lilac bushes planted all along the perimeter of our lot. We still have a few left. When we remodeled five years ago, we found a framed portrait of a guardian angel nestled in the rolled insulation. We’ve found various notations etched into the floor joists: “Hello Friends” and “Built in 1941.” I imagine them as warm and loving people.I know the original owners are dead. But I feel their presence in this home, which they obviously cared for a great deal. And they are remembered for their lush landscaping, the scalloped trim on the fireplace and bay window. So, if nothing else, I’m here to leave my mark. And I won’t go without a fight.