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Coming Home (I)

Here
Above the clouds
I am surrounded by a sky
As blue as the lakes I have missed.
Checkerboards of green
So fresh
From a winter’s worth of melted snow.
I can already feel
The breeze from the prairie
Stirring a field of young corn
Row after row
In rich, dark soil.
The ground rushes up to meet me
And I am home.

Home, Sweet Home

About a week before Mark and I got married, we spent (yet another) evening working toward settling in. He was already living in the house on Westmoreland Drive that we would share for the next 18 years, and we had spent the previous 6 months painting the kitchen, scrubbing walls in the other rooms, and replacing carpet. I had dozed off on the couch during a break, and woke up shocked to see the time was 2 am! I hustled out the door so my folks wouldn’t worry about me, though I feared it may have been too late.

I was determined to get home as quickly as I could, but just as determined not to be pulled over for speeding. So my speedometer hovered at 55 most of the way. At that strange hour, I was alone with overnight truckers traveling down Highway 158. That is, until a car came rushing up behind me. After some weird maneuvers, the driver turned on … his blue light. Great.

I found a safe place to pull over and waited for the deputy to approach. He was unable to give me a good reason for stopping me, but did ask all the usual questions. In my exhausted and startled state, I was not very clear in my answers.

“Ma’am, where are you coming from?”
“My house.”
“And where are you heading?”
“Home.”
“Excuse me?” I think he was getting ready to have me walk a straight line or something. I proceeded to explain that I was getting married in a week, that I had spent time working on the new house, and was heading home to sleep. The deputy, mildly suspicious, weighed my words carefully and finally decided that this answer was plausible. He let me go.

The next week, Mark and I began our new life together. We called that house our home, but it took me quite a while to settle in to a new routine, a new route to work, a new role as lady of the house, in charge of meals and all. After a while, without my really noticing, that house became our happy home.

Years later, I found myself in the same situation. Mark moved to Knoxville ahead of us, while I remained in Winston-Salem to tie up loose ends. I recall musing aloud to Mom #2 (Mark’s mom) that it would be interesting to see how quickly our two dachshunds settled in to their new home. She wisely said “To dogs, home is where their people are.”

Even after the rest of us – Damon, the Girls, and I – completed our move, the word “home” still meant both cities. I was still in charge of meals, but I had a new kitchen to work in. Plus a new job, new roads, new … everything. For a while, I wondered how long I would have one foot in each city. And honestly, I wondered how my process looked to those around me, so I closed up a bit, afraid my new friends and my old friends would judge me for struggling. I felt like everyone saw me as that deputy once did, confused and apparently a little lost.

But I wasn’t lost. I never was. I was with my family, which is always home. And our family circle has grown to include coworkers, fellow dancers, and church friends whose love has nourished us and helped our roots grow deep here.

Sure, I still have one foot in each city, and I probably always will. Because Mom #2 is right. Home is where my people are.

Home, sweet home.

As I sat at lunch with a friend
One rainy afternoon,
Eating tuna,
Talking Turgenev,
I thought it all so literary.
Long we sat,
Discussing the flaming pens of the past
That moved across pages
And moved the minds of men,
We lingered over our cake and coffee.
I felt comfortable in that cozy restaurant,
Listening to the patter of rain,
Hearing the clatter of dishes,
Enjoying the chatter of knowledge.
But, after a while, we had discussed all
That the world’s literature held.
We were finished.
So we left, and strode our varied paths,
Leaving behind Wharton, Hardy, Hawthorne,
And other creators.

Thinking now, I know I had enjoyed the time
And had gained some knowledge
Of fictional characters and their masters; yet
I did not feel any more full.
The experience was only for then,
Not for the future.
Like Chinese food –
I would be hungry in an hour.
I think that perhaps another conversation
May have warmed me more than coffee,
May have satisfied me more than Keats;
Had we discussed the Creator
And all His wonders,
We might be there now,
With no thought of leaving,
Discovering new ways of reading His Book.
We could have explored the lives of real people,
Past and present,
And praised their Master,
The Author.
Yes, we would still be at our table,
Even now,
Nursing our eleventh cup of coffee
And filling ourselves with lunch
And the fullness of God.

Two Words

Only two words
So small
That I should say.
I know how much you need to hear them.
I can see it in your eyes
So full of pain
The hurt that I caused.
Oh, I am well aware.
You just don’t know it.
These small words
Are bigger than you realize
(To me)
And they are stuck.
Trapped by my stubbornness
My pride
My own self-doubt –
All large enough to trap
Two little words
And keep them from escaping my lips.
So you are left to read my mind.

Two words are all you want.
Not flowers or flirtation,
Playful charm
That ought to show love
But really
Only attempt to distract you
From the issue at hand.
It never works,
Yet I try it every time.
Until finally
I come to realize what I knew all along:
While my pride matters to me
Your feelings matter more.
So I move it all aside
And say it.
I’m sorry.
Then all is well.

Change

Perhaps it is my womanhood
Makes me this way –
Ready to cry at any moment.
I know I’m too young for
The Change.
And I don’t feel anything changing anyway.
No.
Just staying the same.
The same pain,
More like a dull ache.
Like arthritis, I guess;
But instead of my joints,
The ache is in my heart.
Like a quiet gnawing at my soul.
Anything can start the tears
That don’t quite flow,
But stay flooded in my eyes.
An old movie –
“We’ll always have Paris.”
Remember Old Yeller?
A new baby,
That clean-sweet smell of lotion,
The rustle of a diaper.
A handsome man
Who clearly, dearly loves the woman at his side.
And I wonder,
Will this ache ever go away?
Or will I have to wait
For a bigger change?

Lunch Hour

Chipper chatter
Bounces around this crowded room
Co-workers watching the clock
As they share a quick meal.
Any other day
We would add to the happy din
Of voices and laughter between hasty bites
Knowing the food
Is secondary to the face time.
Squeezing as much as we can
Out of a too-short lunch hour
We would share stories
Of work and home
And list favorites
From tv and music.
The conversation would come easily.
It always has.

But not today.
This lunch hour is different.
The chatter around us
Annoying at first
Soon fades away
Leaving us in a bubble of silence
So full of meaning
That we almost can’t speak.
We are reduced to small talk
As we nibble our cold fries
Without tasting them.
We exchange thoughts of friendship
Without saying them.

Sweaty sleeplessness
Hot flash greets me at midnight
Hello, Menopause