My life is based on movement, and my challenge is to make home wherever I am. Majka Burhardt
It happened every time. We would be driving toward the center of town on Sixth Street past Eastside Park and the neighborhood of craftsman-style homes with sunflower-and-lavender-front-yards, up the gradual incline for several blocks until we crested the top of the hill, and that’s when he would say it. Perhaps it was the white-steepled church that sat on a grassy lawn halfway down or the house next door with its purple trim, perhaps it was the hill itself that seemed so familiar. I’m not sure what it was that acted as cue for my two-year-old grandson Viren, but just as the nose of my rental car would point itself down that steep decline, I would hear his voice pipe up from the carseat in the back. “Good-bye my home!” he would say. And then as our car would dip past the white-steepled church, I’d catch a glimpse of him gazing down Jefferson Street and he would add, “I miss my home!” with what seemed like an ocean of longing. And then it was over. Just like that. And we’d be at the bottom of the hill watching the cars and the trucks zoom by and we’d be looking forward to what was going to happen next in a day filled with things that were going to happen next.
I’m sure that six weeks earlier, when Viren and his parents moved from the townhouse that sat a short distance down Jefferson Street from that white-steepled church into the 1960’s tri-level home several blocks away, Viren’s words and the feeling behind those words was genuine and deep. And he still might have been feeling it deeply, this missing the comfort of the familiar a month-and-a-half later. Who am I to say? One thing I can say for sure is that his trampoline-like jump back to buoyancy was remarkable, that if he indeed still was feeling that hollow pit of “missingness”, he didn’t linger there. In the blink of an eye, he was back in the moment, wide-eyed and eager and ready to play.
I thought of Viren’s buoyancy the morning after I flew back to my home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula after a week of play in Moscow, Idaho. I woke up in my own bed, in a house that I love with heart and soul, with the glimmer of sunlight flickering through sheer curtains and the pine-scented air blowing in. And yet the pine-scented air didn’t seem quite as fresh as usual and the art on the walls, it didn’t shine with its familiar vibrancy. I found myself mimicking him. “Good-bye my home!” I said out loud. “I miss my home!” And there it was, the ocean of longing — and then the dry hollow feeling that is leftover when the tide recedes. Lying in bed that morning, there was much that I was missing. Not just my two-year-old grandson playmate, but his parents, too, and our other son and his wife who now live mere blocks away from the tri-level that Viren now calls, “New House”. I was missing the sweetness of family in this sweet Idaho town that they are now calling home.
And that morning, Viren became my role model. If he could make that trampoline leap into feeling better, I knew that I could too. And I knew that hopping back on a plane and heading west to Idaho wasn’t going to fill this inner place of longing, nor would it help to head east to my roots, to Maine, a place I love with equal fervor. I knew that finding my way back home wasn’t about an outer place at all, that it was an inside job, that “home” was an abode within, somewhere beneath heartbeat and breath, a place where the door is always open and the hearth warm and inviting, a place available in any moment. I also knew that, when I settle into that place, the outer world takes on a glimmer and a shimmer and everything seems more inviting to me. And why would I want to cling to the missing, to a hollow empty feeling, when the glimmer and the shimmer and the appreciation for all that I had just experienced in Idaho and the eagerness for all that was present for me now was available by simply walking through that inner open door?
I’m not sure how Viren takes the journey back to that inner home when he’s feeling out of sorts. I just know that it seems easy for him, that he doesn’t cling to the sad or the angry or the grudge. Sometimes it is his trains, Thomas and the others, who sit on the table in “New House’s” family room that settle him into alignment, or something good to eat at the Co-op, or a jaunt to one of his favorite play areas. He has his ways that are unique to him. And I do too. So that first morning back in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, in the house that has been my outer home for twenty-five years, I started right away, with my breath and my journaling and my puttering and my unpacking. And through it all, I called on my greatest tool, an easy and powerful game that I play, one that brings me back into alignment every time. It is the “I love” game. And it is like inner honey filling up the hollow and the dry. It is sweet and it is tangible and it is easy.
It is not possible to hold on to what you are missing when you filled to the brim with love. And there is always something that you can love. There’s the fluffy white cat curled up in the crook of your arm, and there is the fridge downstairs filled with greens and cucumbers and summer squashes and peppers, an abundance of harvest that your husband has bought at the farmer’s market a few days earlier, and there is your husband himself who has vacuumed the house and cooked for you a pot of your favorite dried beans, and the birds at the feeder and the air that is smelling fresher now that you are filling yourself up with love, and there is the balsam tree and the giant white pines bordering the yard behind your house, and the memory of those tall western cedar, and the magic of it all, the here and the there and the everywhere.
And before I knew it, that first morning back, I was home again, really home, and I was singing a new tune. “Hello, my home!”