An ordinary image…of an ordinary house..on an ordinary street..in a place that was – for me - really quite extra-ordinary.
My home town. My big city…that was oftentimes much too small.
It was picture perfect – that life and that family. Three children and a dog. A father who went to work each morning and returned home every night. A mother who raised the children and tended the nest. A house with a yard and a white picket fence. A life that was predictable , safe, sheltered and protected. Although we knew nothing of the world, we did know this.
Before even reaching that oh-so-critical age-of-majority, I left. Following my dream, perhaps. Pursuing an education and a profession, for sure. Too young to understand the life-consequences of my decisions and choices. In a big hurry to grow up and into me. I never intended for it to be this way, but this way it definitely was.
Life happened. Opportunity knocked. Choices were made. It was what it was and I did what I did. There was no turning back.
It takes a village, and we were that. With grandparents who lived a mere stone’s throw away and other extended family just around the corner, we were never alone or lonely. Visiting was as easy as simple knock on the door. A cup of hot tea. Fresh home-baked cookies. A warm welcoming hug. A soft shoulder to cry on. Another home away from ours.
Our lives were infused with a comforting rhythm and routine. Daily breakfasts at 7 a.m., suppers served promptly at 6 every night. On Fridays, the entire extended family joined together and gathered around our grandmother’s table. We lit candles. We broke bread. We shared in each others' lives and stories. We knew what was expected, and learned to expect exactly that.
Time is like that. It has its way of slipping thru our fingers and passing us by. One year to the next. Sometimes slowly, and always too fast. I can now see more clearly what it is that I’d walked away from, and all that I so desperately missed.
Family. Community. Tradition. What was familiar, and what was safe.
My children don’t know any differently. Their childhoods did not include extended family who lived nearby. They did not have the pleasure of stopping in to visit grandparents randomly, daily, on a moment's notice. And they didn’t grow up with extended family who just happened to drop-in on them at any time for no apparent occasion or special reason. They rarely experienced the family gathering, the fighting, and more importantly - the love.
Scattered. Sisters and brothers and parents and grandparents. We are all in different cities. Geographically separated. We are dependent on planes, trains and automobiles as a means and a ways for us to be physically together. We stay closely tied and connected with our cell phones and emails and other technological wonders. But – it’s not the same.
It’s the simple pleasures. The daily routines. The things that memories are made of that I am mostly missing. So often I find myself wishing for those days when we were just one small village within that big bright city. When life was simpler. When ritual ruled and family reigned. When conversations happened around kitchen tables. When everyone who was truly important was physically present and all together at one time and in one space.
With time and distance and (dare I say it) age, I find myself searching for that childhood home. Seeking out that family, that village, that life that was once so picture perfect and safe and secure. Hoping to find some of what I walked away from and creating it anew. Yearning for those family relationships that were once so powerful and grounding and strong. Sometimes wondering how the me that I was, has become the me that I am now.
Returning to that place and time. Looking and really seeing, maybe for the first time. It’s been a long and winding road, and there’s no place like home.