Sunday, November 30, 2008


I hardly know my own heart today.

Wait, let me back up.

Two nights ago, we stayed in none other than Scranton, PA, which means nothing to you if you don't watch The Office, but if you do, means A LOT. We stayed at the Clarion Hotel because it had an indoor pool, but from our window I could see Schrute Farms Bed and Breakfast. Well, almost. Let's just say I could, on a subconscious level, detect the presence of fresh beets in the area.

So last night we sort of fulfilled a 3-year fantasy and returned to Simpsonville, SC, where we lived for five years. It was only a tiny bit out of our way, and we spent the night with Brian and Jessica Collins, some of our dearest friends from our time there (If you happen to be reading this and you're another of our friends from that area, be not offended that we didn't drop in on you. Time was extremely limited.)

Our kids and theirs hadn't seen each other in three years -- we last hugged each other goodbye at the farewell party we threw at Pump It Up for all of our friends the day before we left South Carolina. (I highly recommend this idea to all families who are moving out of town. That was the most stressful weekend of our entire lives, and to emerge from a packing/house-selling/newborn-baby-with-medical-issues/self-recovering-from-pneumonia NIGHTMARE and show up at your own party where no one has to do anything except jump on large bouncy things and eat pizza and have such a blast that no one's crying when we say goodbye? Priceless.) Oh, actually, in the middle of that nightmare weekend, which ALSO happened to be New Year's Eve and Day, Brian and Jess organized a surprise restaurant dinner for us with all the couples from our playgroup, with our combined thirteen children being babysat at their house by three reliable teenagers. So I have painted a sufficient picture of their unutterable coolness as friends?

Anyway, it was like we'd never been gone today. The kids were romping together as soon as the sun came up, and then we all lounged around the table eating a giant breakfast made by Brian, and talking until way past the time we'd agreed to leave. And then, competing to out-thank one another for a time of blessing that was all too short.

After we left their house this morning, we drove through our former small town, noting what had changed (not a whole lot) and what remained the same. I'm not sure what's the most unnerving -- that which changes when we move on, or that which stays the same, apparently heedless of your absence. We passed the toy store where I used to take Ian to play with all the Thomas trains on long, rainy days, the Publix where we did most of our grocery shopping (and always saw someone we knew), the post office where the clerk made me promise to come back and visit (yes, we lived in a small town).

We drove into our old neighborhood, almost thankful for the chilly rain that seemed to dim its considerable charms. The kids' memories came flooding back as we passed the playground, the duck pond, the pool, the clubhouse where I taught music group for three years. We passed our babysitter's house and saw a car parked in the driveway that could very well be hers, now that she's probably started college.

And then there it was -- our house. The house where we brought our four-month-old baby boy, and where I later gave birth to my daughters in the garden tub upstairs. The maples we had planted were wearing their fall splendor in the front yard, the hydrangeas shriveled in advance of winter's frost. We could glimpse the backyard, bereft of the playscape but still adorned with the tree we planted over Eliza's placenta. There were the blueberry bushes, stark and fruitless in the cold drizzle, but reminiscent of the gallons, purple and abundant, that we harvested our last summer there. In the woods behind the house, the trees all glowed red and orange in the rain, and I knew exactly what that glorious view from the wall of kitchen windows would be right now.

There was a car parked in the driveway, but we didn't have the gumption to go ring the bell. Next door we could see the same cars, marking the presence of our former neighbors and bringing to mind the time the wife, Gwenn, called me on my cell phone while we were in Charleston for a long weekend. "Did y'all mean to leave your back door wide open? ... Ah, I didn't think so. Bill's on his way over to shut it right now."

I left a note for one neighbor, knowing they'd be filling a pew at First Baptist at that moment, and we drove past a couple other houses where, if we only had a couple hours to stop, I could easily have gone and knocked on their doors. It felt terrible to just drive on by, but I knew a five-minute "hello" would never do.

As we made our way back to the highway, I felt so torn, with our past thrust so poignantly into our faces and hearts. The struggle to reconcile a kind of longing with the knowledge that in so many ways, we have moved on, left me at a loss for words. Eventually, Tim remarked quite perceptively, "In a way, I really miss it, but I don't regret the choice we made."

Regret, no, since there's a peace that comes from following the Lamb whereever He may go. Yet the heart, its trailing root hairs exposed now and then, never is a tidy little package, is it?


Beck said...

Oh, I know how you feel. I do. We go back once a year to the small city where we first became a family, where we had The Girl, and it's at once so painfully the same and so painfully different that it's almost unbearable. There's always this horrible uprooted feeling, this ambivalence about why we would have ever, ever left. Sob!

Amy Tague said...

Made me cry AGAIN! So beautifully toucing. :)

paula said...

I am sorry we missed you. But truely ubderstabd time, which I do not have a lot of these days it seems. I do not like woeking, but the positve is the break form the kids. But not the head ache of rushung to fit everything in one day...

love ya and miss you...
Hugs from the churchs

paula said...

I wonder if i csn edit my post, in such s hurry the typeos are bad