My own child-bearing era has become a glorious but hazy memory. It's been years since I last bought a home pregnancy test kit (something they didn't even have when I had my first babies) and excitedly awaited the results--because every other time I'd been so late, another son had been on the way; it's been years since I cried when the tests were negative, because I was embarrassed and disappointed and forced to come to grips with the sad reality that I would never carry another child in my womb.
I wonder if any woman is ever ready to hear that as far as that part of her life is concerned, she is "done." Even if she thinks her family is "complete," it's a tough thing to accept.
I'm in a new season now, approaching what they call the "golden years." And they are golden, very much so, in their way. My husband and I consider our life these days to be one long date, where we get to spend all of our free time together, focusing on each other, now that we're not running here and there to drop kids off and pick them up, now that we don't have a houseful of boys whose demands need to be met.
But my top "love languages" (which I only learned about after my sons got married and my daughters-in-law asked me what mine were) are quality time together and acts of service. I live for spending time with my family, my favorite people on earth. And I love to do things for them. But when you are not physically near your loved ones, it's kind of tough to speak these languages as often as you'd like. The nest we've made here in NH over the course of more than a quarter of a century, the home where we raised our sons, is now officially empty. Our four oldest boys have started families of their own and live miles from home, and not long after our baby graduated from college last May, his new career took him even farther away from us than any of his brothers.
So our beautiful Colonial house in NH, a nest that we spent years feathering, rarely has anyone in it these days--and that includes my husband and myself. Between our time spent in NY fixing up Oyster Haven (our VRBO house on Lake Champlain) and our travels to visit with our kids and grandkids, we never seem to be there for more than a few days at a time anymore.
|Our happy house, filled with love and memories.|
My husband and I are coming to a bit of a crossroad in our lives, one that I should have seen coming many years ago but somehow didn't. We are beginning to ask ourselves where we belong in the world, to ask ourselves, "Where is 'home'?" Is it here in NH, in the house we bought at Christmastime in 1989 and where we raised our five boys? Or is it at the idyllic house on the lake that we bought just last year, in the area where we met and our story began?
Oyster Haven...which looks suspiciously similar to our NH home!
(Not that we have a "type" or anything!)
Will this be the happy house that our grandchildren remember?
I guess it's just that sometimes, I feel like I have no home. Or too many homes. It's confusing, and sometimes, it makes me feel a bit verklempt. I know I'm not supposed to get emotionally attached to the lake house, because we're going to have to rent it out to afford it, and that means we're going to have to let other people stay there. But every time my husband and I spend a few days at Oyster Haven getting work done, it begins to feel like home. Then we drive back to NH, and I feel I'm home again. My loyalties have become divided, and that's tough for me. It's hard to know what's right for us, at this point in our lives.
This song I was listening to in the car, by an Irish band called The Script, didn't help either, as far as the crying went.
Sometimes our NH home, so empty and quiet now, makes me feel sad, a feeling that confuses me. Because it's always been a happy house. It's the only home our youngest son has ever known, and he wrote a deeply moving "fictional" piece about it for a 9th grade English project (which I blogged about in 2011, if you'd like to read the full post). Here is an excerpt from that project, about a family he called the O'Callaghans but who were really the Pearls:
...To common passers-by, it is just an ordinary house at the end of some street. And yes, like any home, it is where I sleep, it is where I eat, and it is where I live. But to me, it is so much more than just an inn or a breakfast nook.
It is a familiar face that says, "Hello there! How was your trip?" after I've traveled long distances; a life-long friend that is always there when I don't know where else to go. It is my playground, my home field advantage for all my backyard football games; where our family-famous Wiffle Ball homerun derbies are held. It is my place of study; where I have been schooled for the past five years and still get schooled. It is where I learned about life, about the One who made me, and the One who sacrificed Himself for us.
This is where the seven O'Callaghans live. And although there are nicer houses on our street, our house is a hidden gem, stowed away from the rest of the world. It is everything I want out of a house. Everything I need out of a home.
Our youngest son's senior year of college, we had to leave NH in early January to go down to VA to begin our four-and-a-half-month stint as nannies to our sweet little grandson G-Man. Knowing how much of a homebody our baby had always been, I asked him if it was okay for him to cut his time in NH--his last Christmas break time--short and join us at his older brother's house until he had to go back to Notre Dame for his final semester. I was all apologetic, but he looked at me and assured me it was no problem. He said, "Mom, wherever you guys are, that's home."
I'll say it again: that kid...
When my husband got back from his trip, I was filling him in about my tear-filled drive to NY, listening to The Script and wondering if that song had some kind of hidden meaning that God wanted me to hear. I talked about how much I loved our NH house, but wondered if we're meant to sell it and settle in NY, to fulfill a lifelong dream of living on the lake. I asked him how we were supposed to know where we belonged. His answer was, "I'm always happy when I'm with you. Whether it's here, or in NY, or at one of our kids' houses. As long as we're together, I'm happy." Hmmm....it's obvious where our baby gets his heart from.
So in spite of how happy we've been at our home in NH, I'm also beginning to realize that if we decide it doesn't make sense for us anymore, that's okay. The bottom line is that wherever we are--just the two of us together, or with our boys and our daughters-in-law and our grandchildren--that place is home. It could be MI or VA, or even Germany, but wherever we are together, that's our home.
|At home in Germany recently, with our youngest son.|