Monday, August 3, 2009


Our car slipped down the crunching gravel an hour before dawn, leaving the fresh lake air and the clouds of mosquitoes and a million memories too comfortable to remember behind.
We crossed over onto the pavement and the magic was gone, the safe haven left once again for the thirty-fourth summer of my life as I headed for "home".

And I wondered, as I thought it, what home is. Is it the place I am leaving, where four generations before me have dipped their toes in the lake, where spirits freely roam? Is it where my children play every single day with their cousins and get hugged by aunties and nanas and big cousins? Is it this house where I grew up for every summer I have ever known, where my children sleep in the same beds, on the same sheets that my sisters and I shared thirty years ago, where I serve them cereal in the same bowls I ate out of when I was three? Is it this place of timelessness, where I have no phone card for long distance, and no internet access, and where I never drive anyplace, and where I never run out of things to do?

Or is it where I am going, the pink house on the ledge with the rushing river below and the tall pines behind? Is it where I have carefully crafted each room, each space to my own liking, with things that sing to me, collected over years for specific reasons but at isolated times? Is it this house which stands on its own, where I have to drive in a car to see people, where my computer blinks on my desk and my telephone rings and mail piles up in the box?
I don't know the answer. The first sometimes feels more like home, but one can't stay there forever. I want to, I do, but the summer does end and the cousins all go home and then it is just a place. A place that settles me like a baby at the breast, but a place all the same. And my home has a bustling energy that I might miss, I might long for the hustle and bustle at times. Winter on the lake would be long, and cold, and lonely. Here it is cozy and warm, and the friends, though they travel by car, abound. They are not tied to me by blood, but by choice, and there is something to be said for that, as well.

We arrived home at two in the afternoon, and the sun beat down on the unfamiliar pavement of our driveway as we unloaded the vanload of things. I have spent my whole life trying to defend my homeland to clueless Americans who ask every year, "But isn't it cold up there?" but this year the myth proved true, we had a chilly month of July on the lake which appealed to me a great deal. As I unpacked my swelling body was repelled by the new sensation of sweaty heat and hot pavement. But as things slowly were dragged out of the car and across the lawn we managed to also pick six pints of blueberries out of our prolific fruit garden and to discover all the toys we'd left behind when we drove out, also before dawn, five weeks ago.

And now I sit, back to the plugged-in world, knowing in my heart that both places are home, and that one has much to teach me about the other. About the value of family, about keeping connections, and about how it might be a nice, relaxing idea to just say NO sometimes. To not turn on my computer 3 days a week. To not answer the phone if I am otherwise engaged. To be more present, more there. To celebrate.

So, there it is, a stream of consciousness that I dare not re-read-- having woken up this morning at 3:20 with a baby kicking my bladder and returning to bed unable to sleep, I am sure that this post will leave many grappling for what the point might have been, but it is a sleepy start back into life back at the little pink house, and there are parts of me that are glad to be back.
(and big huge parts of me that are sad).

And tomorrow is my birthday!


Hope's Mama said...

Welcome home! I missed you. Is it possible to miss someone you have never met? Well I think it is. Beautiful, vivid post. I wish I had a special family place like this. And happy birthday for tomorrow. Relax and enjoy the day with your loved ones, I'll be thinking of you.

Ya Chun said...

What a wonderful retreat. I wanna go there!

And I wish you a peaceful return to 'civilized' (who says this is better??) life and a peaceful birthday.

Sara said...

Welcome back! Happy birthday! Looking forward to seeing you.

loribeth said...

Having moved many times in my life, "where is home?" is a question I often ask myself. Welcome back, & happy birthday!!

kris said...

Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday, dearest Carol, happy birthday to you!

I always love reading about the lake and I hope that you, G, and the kids can keep the spirit alive in the Pioneer Valley.

rebeccaeee said...

Home is where the heart are fortunate to have more than one place to call home. Welcome back and happy birthday! I have been wondering how baby is growing and hoping you had a great vacation.

Aimee said...

Thank goodness you are back! Everyday I go to my "Bookmarks" page and go down to "Happy Sad Mama" and everyday...NOTHING. Sigh. I've missed you! (And really, isn't it all about me?)

Glad you had a great time--it was cold and rainy here too, so don't let people knock you for living "up there."

Enjoy the blueberries!

Hennifer said...

Welcome back to blogland. I do not for one second wonder what your point in this entry was. It spoke to me loud and clear and I wish I had such a similar attachment to the place I live or family tradition such as that. I believe we are starting to make our own but I find such comfort in your homes.

Thank you for sharing and I hope you have a wonderful birthday.

Taking Heart said...

Happy birth day!
So nice to hear of your yummy respite!

Erika P said...

Welcome back and happy belated birthday.

Lovely post - you say (much more eloquently than I) what I tried to say when someone asked me this weekend if I still consider Southern California to be home. I spent the first 18 years of my life there and return frequently to visit family, I've now spent the next 17 years of my life in New England, and they're both home, in different ways.