Saturday, 4 October 2014

Coming home

Reading: The Devil in Massachusetts by Marion L. Starkey
Listening to: "Bleeding Out" by Imagine Dragons
Outside: In comes that husky pre-Autumn wind against gold leaf and blue sky


Hello, my dear readers!

I have roped my beloved into an afternoon of childcare so that I can get my butt in this seat, get parked in front of the computer, and type.





I apologize for my lengthy absence. I have been on a journey on a par with a curly-haired breed of Baggins. I have been across hill and dale, over sea and under sand; I have been home and back.

Leavin' on a jet plane

We boarded the plane back in September with that kind of hectic energy that only new parents flying with a baby for the first time have: a breathless and constant worry, pockets bulging with errant baby wipes and emergency get-her-to-chill-out baby toys. So began our little Jellybean's first trip to the United States of America, to those wide Indiana cornfields of my youth.

I had lots of things going on in my head as we sat there on the plane, watching fellow passengers find their seats, double-checking our supplies, counting down the hours and minutes until her next feeding time (wouldn't want to get confused with the time zone switch!). Thoughts banged around in the dome of my skull, sharp and vivid ones, then faded off into my haze of exhaustion. (Our 4 A.M. start had not been a welcome one.) Would she settle okay? Would she be that nightmare baby we'd never want to sit next to (back before we had her, when we were still young and beautiful)? What if she didn't adjust to the 5-hour time difference? What if she woke up at 4 in the morning every single day? How would we deal with that?




As it turned out, things worked out. They tend to do that, whether you worry about it or not.

Our little Jellybean came to Bucklandville, the home of my girlhood days, my true, true love. You have to understand: I feel deeply about this place more than any other in the world. I have written terrible poetry about it. And there she was, my little girl, holding the season's first fallen leaves in her hand. It was almost too much: carrying my baby down the driveway I used to run down catching fireflies as a girl. She fell asleep on the porch to that lovely symphony of cicadas I missed so much - like a throb, a heartbeat strengthening in the evening, a heady foretaste of night.

She dipped her feet in my old swimming pool, and slept for a bit on my old bed. She laughed at the ducks at our old boat dock, giggled in the breeze that whipped up waves at Geist Lake.

Taking in the Rays: Jellybean visits Geist Lake, my old haunt

She met many of my old friends and my sister, each and every person a special love of my life - a smile or a laugh reminding me of that night at Steak 'n Shake, or that pep rally at Mt. Vernon High School, or the warm halls of Woody Shales at Ball State University.

At Tuttle Orchard, she met my old fall friends: piles of pumpkins, dried ears of Indian corn bristling on a table, a shop full of apple pies, apple butter and Red Delicious as far as the eye could see.

Needless to say, she had (mostly) no trouble getting to sleep at night.

I told her stories, and I do believe she listened.

Her warm weight in my arms felt good as I took her around Bucklandville and told her things.  She turned ten months during our time in Indiana, and I like to think she watched me just as much as she watched everyone and everything else around her: the one person at the core of this whirlwind of faces and places; staring hard at the mouth of a woods trail or a tiny bend in a rippling creek. Stopping to look at a wide front yard, an outdoor lamp glowing bright with an evergreen backdrop. Pausing to watch a dear friend's car driving away in the waning 6 o'clock sun. Maybe my little girl wondered what I was doing, concentrating and taking such deep breaths. Her mom, me, usually so talkative, suddenly gone quiet.

Someday she will know what it means to come home.

A Walk in the Woods: Jellybean and Grandpa Denny (Mommy's old playhouse in background)

I took pictures, hundreds of them, and each one captured my little girl as soft and young, and the rolling of time will harden each picture into the concrete, irretrievable past. Perhaps this was what I was so quiet about - I still can't quite put it into words. I took pictures of the places I used to play - the sledding hill my sister and friends and I used to careen down in winter, the playhouse next to the driveway where we used to pretend Schoolhouse and McDonald's. Inside these places, each smelled the same (dust, cobwebs, the spice of buckeye and maple), and the pictures I took, though beautiful, were simply not enough. No number of pictures can build the panorama of Bucklandville I lived in as a child - the memories are weightless but solid, reassuring but impossible to hold.

It wasn't until we arrived in southern Alabama to visit my mother and her side of the family that I was given countless pictures of me as a child - from one day old all the way up to my high school graduation day. The story spans eighteen years, and the pictures are Polaroids and vintage Kodaks, and I wear retro outfits that always seem a size too large. I smiled and stared at these photos, went quiet again. These are days my mom and dad will remember - these are their memories I held in my hand and sifted through, memories that only came to life - to me - as my age progressed, as I grew into the woman I am.

Four Generations: Jellybean with Great Granny, Granny Sandie, and Mommy

Perhaps, sometimes, it isn't until long after we take the picture that the picture takes on meaning. And maybe you can't really bottle up your childhood (those twinkling lightning bugs, the crickets' song). And maybe home changes as much as your life does; home, for me, now, is where my husband is. But I was happy to be back again, at least for a little while, on the old porch with my girl, whispering to her about who I used to be.

Happy Saturday, everyone, and may you always find your home, wherever it is.

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