Wednesday, March 28, 2018

A Whole New Chapter

Don't let that title fool you--I'm not talking about books here.  It's been a while since I wrote a new chapter for one of those: almost four years, to be exact.  And as much as I'd like to believe I will someday write a sequel to Erin's Ring (a really compelling story I've been kicking around inside my head for several years now), I'm not sure I'll ever get around to it.

No, I'm talking about LIFE--the great big, amazing, surprising, ever-changing, sometimes terrifying, sometimes gloriously perfect, God-written book of life.

This morning, I was passing this photo collage that hangs on the wall in the stairwell of our "new" house in VA.  (I need to put the word "new" in quotes now; because as of March 20, we have been Virginians for a whole year already.)
My boys!  (If you're thinking this is the most adorable quintet of lads you've ever laid eyes on, you're spot on!   #truth.)

I pass this collage of cuteness countless times every day, on my way from the first floor to the second and back down again.  Those precious faces, more dear to me than any others--save the face of the man they call "Dad"--look a lot different these days, to be sure.  Those round-cheeked, soft-skinned little fellas range in age from 25 to 34 now, so you can imagine how much they've changed.  The four oldest of them are married, and have given us 12 grandchildren so far (with two more on the way!).  A number of those grandchildren are older than my baby boys were when these photos were taken.

How does that happen, anyway?  You turn your head for one minute...But I'm here to warn you, it will happen, mamas: your children will grow up.  Meanwhile, you'll feel exactly the same age you were when they were in diapers, so it's a very strange phenomenon.  (You will not look as young as you did when your babies were in diapers, unfortunately...but that's a topic for another day.)

Yes, once upon a time, I was the fresh-faced mother of very small boys.  It was all I'd ever wanted to be, from the time I was a little girl: a full-time wife and mother, a homemaker (and I don't care how antiquated and un-PC that sounds!), taking care my home and family.  All my hopes and dreams were fulfilled, all my prayers answered, when God gave me five sweet sons to raise and a doting and supportive husband who made it possible for me to do it without working outside the home.  God has blessed me so much more than I deserve, and I am constantly reminded that to whom much is given, much is expected.

When our four oldest boys were between the ages of 3 and 7, we moved into a lovely Colonial house on an idyllic acre-plus of wooded property on a quiet cul-de-sac street in NH.  Two years later, we welcomed a fifth son.  This was our home--in every possible definition of the term--for more than 26 years.
But the chicks, they do leave the nest.  As I said before, mamas, this is a fact of life; your babies grow up (the nerve!).  They go to college, they get jobs, they get married, and before you know it, they're buying homes in which to raised their own chicks.  If you're lucky, they stay within striking distance.  But in our case, they moved much too far away to see them on a regular basis without constant traveling.  Long car trips and cross-country flights became the norm.  During the last few years that my husband and I lived in that beloved house in NH, we spent so little time under its roof that we began to wonder why we even owned it.

But God works in mysterious ways, doesn't He?  Who would have thought that three of our boys would end up settling in Northern VA, two within minutes of each other and the other less than two hours away from them?  If we picked a spot somewhere in the middle, we decided, we could see all three easily and our new house could become the perfect gathering spot for their growing families.  But no, we thought; we could never, ever sell our NH house.  It's too full of memories!  We've put too much sweat equity and love into making it the perfect place for us!  Our house is practically a member of the family!  Maybe it doesn't make sense for us anymore, but we could never sell it and move somewhere else.  We just couldn't do that.

Never say never, my friends; because do that we did.

A year ago, we moved to a small Virginia town that we have grown to love.  Our town is surrounded by bucolic rural vistas (Horses!  Cows!), and everywhere we go, we can see the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.  We've joined a new parish run by two of the most holy priests a thirsting Catholic could ever hope for.  (Not that we didn't love our old parish; but liberal thought in the Northeast is so pervasive that even in the parking lot of Catholic churches, you will see bumper stickers promoting pro-abortion political candidates.  Not so here in NOVA, thank the Lord.)

We made this move for our children and grandchildren, of course, and that alone would have been worth it; but it would have been so much harder if we hadn't been as pleased with our new adopted hometown as we are.  I am a manic nester; I burrow in and fill every space with comforting and familiar furnishings and mementos, and after I've feathered my nest, I find change very difficult.  That's why last year, the Lenten season was marked by sadness, stress, and exhaustion: I was dismantling a home that I never thought I'd leave, and all I could see when I looked about me were memories of a long and happy life lived there, surrounded by growing boys.  Getting that house ready to hand over to a new family was, for me, the hardest Lenten sacrifice I could imagine (not to put too dramatic a spin on it!).
After all the framed photos of our boys playing sports, all the pennants and homages to the Red Sox and the Patriots, came
down, the last items to go were our boys' high school football jerseys.  It was sad.  And afterward, my husband could
no longer hang out in this "man cave" he'd built himself, by converting the garage, even though it had been
his favorite place in the house.

As I swept the attic out attic one final time, this is the pile that went into the dust pan: it tells the story of our life in that house, doesn't it?
I think perhaps my attachment to worldly things needed a bit of adjustment, and God saw fit to help me let go of that house for the good of my family. I still feel little waves of sadness and longing sometimes when I look at photos of our family gathered in our old NH house.  But I wouldn't change where we are for all the tea in China.  The move was, to put it simply, the very best thing we could have done--for ourselves, and for our kids and grandkids.

The incredible thing is that not too long after we moved here, our oldest son moved to the area, too, (probably just for a few years, as he begins a new career where he will originally be working out of DC; but we'll take what we can get!).  In fact, while he was in training in another state, his wife and their four girls lived with us for a couple of months, until they were able to find a suitable house to rent.  (They found one, just 17 minutes from us!)

So never fear: just when you think that part of your life is over, that wonderful season of hearing little feet going pitter-pat around the house, this is what will happen.
I am so happy that I kept most of the toys our boys played with when they were young.  They
are being enjoyed all over again!

And just when you think that with your 60th birthday looming on the horizon, the best season of your life is behind you, you'll look in your kitchen breakfast nook and see the new baby paraphernalia you've gone out to buy, because your house is once again often filled with adorable little people.
One of our daughters-in-law made us a sign for Christmas that reads: "Papa and Grammy's House, Where Cousins Become Friends."  If that's what this house will be for our grandkids, then once again I'll say that this move is the very best thing we could have ever done for our family.

I'm going to end this post (which I think of as a celebration of the one year anniversary of living in our new home) with a few pictures from our recent St. Patty's Day celebration--with all four married sons and all 12 grandchildren in attendance.

See those little people in those pictures?  They're just a few of the very good reasons I'm not posting much here at the blog these days.  Being a hands-on Grammy is almost a full-time job.  (I'm "off" today, and taking advantage by blogging this morning, and later on going to Confession and Mass.)  And just like being a SAHM to five little boys, it's a really good gig.

Even if you have to sell your home and move to a new state to get a gig like this, I'm here to tell you that it's very much worth it.


  1. So grateful you guys made the move! Love you all!

    1. We love you, too, and treasure our times together here! <3

  2. What a lovely and hope-filled post! :)

    1. Thanks, Maggie. I hope that's what my blog does for mothers whose children are still living at home, and who wonder how they will ever survive having them grow up and leave: I hope it gives them hope! Even though it was really hard to sort of erase our history by moving to an area where no one knew us, or knew our boys when they were little, the blessings of being close to our favorite people in the world far outweigh any sadness we felt when we cut ties with our old home and hometown. We are thriving down here in VA!

  3. How wonderful! You are such a blessing to me as a writer and blogger, I can only imagine how your family feels to call you their own! Have a blessed Holy Week with your dear ones.

    1. God bless you for always leaving me the kindest comments, Madeline. You are a blessing to ME, as a reader--and I know this sounds a little crazy, because we've never met, but as a friend, too. (Have you seen those memes where children say of their blogging mothers, "All Mommy's friends live in the computer"? Ha ha--that's me!)

      I wish you and yours a blessed Easter! And thanks again--you always make my day when you stop by and leave me a note.

  4. Such a beautiful post! You are such a lucky Grammy!

  5. In your writings you expose such a beautiful,selfless and God loving soul. Thank you for your example. You are a living example of that Mariam “YES” to our Lord. I wish (pray) that you could write more stories to help young women be that amazing catholic wife and mom that God calls us to be for those of us that say YES to the vocation of marriage, regardless if we work in or out of the home. Blessings to you this Easter!

    1. You are much, much too kind! I can only hope and pray that I have done God's will to the best of my limited ability, and that I have fulfilled my vocation in a way that is pleasing to Him.

      Every time I think of leaving the blogging world, I end up coming back--partly because I like to keep a "scrapbook" of family memories that my children will be able to access even after I'm gone; but partly because I do think that there are a lot of "mom bloggers" out there, raising young children (and even teens), but there don't seem to be as many who are in my season of life. So if anything I say here can give young mothers hope or inspiration or a much-needed dose of confidence, that is just the icing on the cake.

      God bless you, too, this Easter season and always.

  6. So pleased to hear you are happy and settled in VA. My can't believe it's a whole year since you moved! You sure have crammed a lot of living in that year though :-) Love the St Pat's photos