Last minute nostalgia

blogDSCN0379 (2)Nostalgic.  Who would think that such a word would prove difficult for me?

This past week’s photo challenge on Word Press was “nostalgic” and I wrestled with that word all week long much to my puzzlement. 

Nostalgia as defined in my trusty dictionary: 1. a longing for things, persons, or situations that are not present. 2. Homesickness.

I think I often write nostalgic posts, so I figured posting a photo to convey this concept would be a snap.  Snapshot in a snap.  That’s what I expected.

Today is Friday, a new photo challenge will be issued today.  Yesterday, I found myself still struggling to choose which picture means nostalgic to me and what to write about it.

My first thought was to post an old family photo from my childhood.   I pored through old pictures in my collection and couldn’t find just the right one.  Next, I decided it would be appropriate to show a picture of my grown-up and flown the nest children when they were small.  I can’t get any more nostalgic when I think about those years when my little ones were still in my nest.

Yet, that idea just didn’t seem right either.  Several more suggestions came to me, but I rejected them all.  Finally, out of desperation to beat the time line imposed (post a photo before the next challenge is issued), I asked my son what he thought of when I said the word nostalgic.

Son drove in the night before from that state next door because he is in a college friend’s wedding this weekend in our nearby city.  When he took a short break away from his laptop where he was working at his job by computer, I posed the question to him.

He paused a minute thinking but then responded with his first thought.  Grandma and Grandpa’s house.  Yes, that was it.

Our family sold my parents’ house after both of my parents died.   That home had been in our family for well over 100 years and it was so very difficult to let it go.  My children have some of their most fond memories of traveling back here to my home state to visit their grandparents.  We enjoy all of our stories about the memories made while staying in that very house where I lived most of my growing up years.

The actual house, owned by a different family now, still exists but it doesn’t look the same.   Its things, people, situations, history, and the family tie that it represented are what we miss the most and what we carry in our hearts.  And that’s what makes it the very essence of ‘nostalgic’ for me.


Burning off the fog

blogDSCN8213The revolving door at Mama’s Empty Nest never stopped spinning over Thanksgiving.

A whirlwind of activity from last Wednesday until yesterday evening kind of left me in a fog this morning, much like this picture outside my kitchen window.

The door rotated open first when Oldest Daughter and Best Beau drove up from the city Wednesday evening.  BB made the trip up from one of those states down south to spend Thanksgiving with us…well, mostly to spend it with Oldest Daughter.  This one is definitely a keeper, and it has been a blessing to watch their relationship deepen from friendship to something more.

Again the door blew open later that night when Son arrived from his long trek from the state next door.  Mama put some finishing touches on Thanksgiving goodie preparations, and we basked in each other’s company until our eyelids started drooping.

Early Thanksgiving morning, Middle Daughter,  white scrubs clad and surprisingly talkative and chipper despite having just worked a 12-hour nursing shift at her hospital plus a drive home from the city, pushed open the revolving door.  Faithful Fiancé couldn’t join us as he didn’t have much time off from his graduate school studies in the state on the other side of us.

With all of the chicks back in the nest once again, I think Middle Daughter pined a bit for her true love and was too excited to be home with her siblings to want to nap.  But gradually she nodded off on the love seat while watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV (another family tradition).

We feasted on turkey and all the trimmings, including Mama’s kids’ favorite, frog eye salad, but not before we each took turns around the table to count and name our blessings, one by one.  As I surveyed the beloved faces gathered at the table and listened to each item for which they were thankful, a realization suddenly dawned on me.

Next year, when I carefully position my mother’s china on the Thanksgiving table, there will be more place settings, but more importantly, there will be more beloved faces.  Middle Daughter and Faithful Fiancé will be a married couple, so our family will increase by one for certain.

Mama’s also alerted to inklings about more exciting news in the empty nest, so I suspect our family will welcome two others, Oldest Daughter’s Best Beau and Son’s Gracious Girlfriend, sometime soon.   As I savored the opportunity to glimpse into the future, it filled me with joy and I silently uttered thanks to the One who ordains our days.

Whoosh!  That revolving door swept open again.  One of Son’s buddies from high school stopped by for a visit and we all commenced a lively game of Qwelf around the kitchen table.   Another spin of the door, and my sister and brother-in-law joined us from their celebration at their son’s in-laws.  The table expanded and Thanksgiving morsels spread out once again.

And just as the door brought them in one by one or two by two, the door opened again to allow their departure.  High school buddy left first, followed by my sister and her hubby.   Son departed to journey to his girlfriend’s family’s home for the remainder of the weekend.

Friday afternoon, more of Mama’s favorite people stepped through the revolving door on their way out.  Oldest Daughter and Best Beau exited to drive south for BB’s family Thanksgiving; Middle Daughter ventured westward to visit Faithful Fiancé.

And Mama and Papa were left with a closed revolving door.  And oodles of Thanksgiving leftovers.  And countless Thanksgiving blessings.

There was no cause for despair though, the door whirled open once more yesterday evening as Son and Gracious Girlfriend visited for a short while on their way back East.

So even though fog crept in this morning, in Chapter 11, Page 28 of my Opportunity book, the love and bonds of family light up my heart and the warmth left there burns off the fog, that misty wrapping of melancholy that once filled the empty nest.  The revolving door will once again burst open because this house, even though it’s the empty nest,  is home.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”  ~ Alexander Graham Bell


Home Sweet Home, Part III

pexels-photo-259583.jpeg [Blogger’s Note:  If you haven’t already done so, please read my Who Am I (intro) post and Part I and Part II in my Home Sweet Home series prior to reading this post.]

“There’s nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.” ~ Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

The circumstances that brought my family back to my homeland were extraordinary.   I plan to write about those circumstances later —  please look for that post, it will be titled Leap of Faith.

It absolutely seemed too good to actually be true. My family was moving back across the country to my husband’s and my home state, more specifically, my home town.  Our house was sold, unnecessary belongings purged or unloaded at a garage sale, and the remaining furniture and household goods packed once again onto a moving van.

Our cross-country journey was about to commence. Two parents, each driving a car, with three kids divided between us, traveled five days to finally arrive back home.  As each day drew us closer, I longed to view my home.

“Home, the spot of earth supremely blest, a dearer, sweeter spot than all the rest.” ~ Robert Montgomery

I must describe home to you so you can understand what it meant to me.  The house that I called my home was the house in which my parents lived.  It’s not remarkable as far as houses go.  It’s a very old, simple two-story white frame house sitting on almost four acres of beautiful green expanse which my father tended faithfully and turned into a lush carpet worthy of golf course status.  There are maple and apple trees, a grapevine, and my mother nurtured an abundant vegetable garden and beautiful flower beds.  Mom took pride in her home and it was always well-decorated, well-kept and well-loved.

The remarkable aspect of my home is that it had been in our family since the year 1882 when my great-grandmother bought it from its original owner.  A real estate appraiser actually found an earlier deed for the house dating back to 1870, so the original part of the house has existed for 140 years and for 128 of those, it belonged to my family.

My father was born in that house.  When his mother passed away, my father purchased the house and moved my mother’s parents there to live.  So both sets of my grandparents resided in that house at different times.  When my mother’s parents needed care, my parents, along with my middle sister and me, moved into the house with them.

From the time I was seven, that house was my home.   My childhood memories are enmeshed with it.  I lovingly remember my grandparents living with us, even though I was only nine the year they both passed away.  I remember smelling the aroma of freshly baked bread when I came home from school and freshly baked cookies and pies when I came home from college for Christmas vacation.  I remember lying in bed on summer nights before air-conditioning and the smell of freshly cut grass wafting through my open windows. I remember the crunchy sound and nutty odor of fall leaves as I walked to the school bus stop.

I remember shivering in the summer evening coolness while conversing with my mother on the front porch swing.   I remember the time it snowed so much, we couldn’t open the door; my father had to nudge it open an inch or two at a time, brushing away snow with a broom, before we could get out of the house.   I remember leaving home for college, and leaving again to live in my first apartment, and again when I married my true love.

I remember bringing my first-born home from the hospital to this house while her daddy was stationed in the military on the other side of the world.   I remember all three of my children being happy and excited to travel “home” to Grandma and Grandpa’s house during all those years we lived far away.

Some of the most treasured moments of my life occurred in that simple, white frame house. To me, that house signified warmth, comfort, family and love. relates other thoughts about home:  “Since it can be said that humans are generally creatures of habit, the state of a person’s home has been known to physiologically influence their behavior, emotions, and overall mental health.  Some people may become homesick when they leave their home over an extended period of time. Sometimes homesickness can cause a person to feel actual symptoms of illness.  It has been argued that psychologically the strongest sense of home commonly coincides geographically with a dwelling. Usually the sense of home attenuates as one moves away from that point, but it does not do so in a fixed or regular way.”

For all those years I lived away from home, I evidently was homesick, and no matter how many years passed, those feelings remained. 

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you.” ~ Frederick Buechner

The world that lived in me was centered around home.  Coming back there to live meant the world to me, even though we would face trials and difficulties.   In the first eight months of living there, we lost both my mother-in-law and my mother.  We searched for a home to call our own, and a year and a half after we moved there, we finally purchased a farmer’s field on which to construct our own house.

At last, I thought, we’re going to own our own home at home!

(Please come back tomorrow for the final installment of my Home Sweet Home series.)


Home Sweet Home, Part II

pexels-photo-731082.jpeg[Blogger’s Note:  If you haven’t already done so, please read my earlier “Who Am I” intro post and Part I in my Home Sweet Home series prior to reading this post.]

The time seemed right.  After a tour of duty overseas and another year stateside, hubby was ready to resign from military life.

We were enthusiastic and relieved when he landed a job as a sales representative with a national company.  After two weeks training, he was assigned a position in a Midwestern city.  It wasn’t home, but it was a bit closer to home.

We purchased our first very own house in the suburbs, nested pretty well there, and two more little additions, middle daughter and son, were added to our family during the time we lived in that house.  Soon we outgrew our smaller abode, so we searched for a larger one in a suburb farther from the city, happily sold our older house, and snagged a new one under construction.

We resided in the new place for a couple of years and even though we chose the carpeting, paint and wallpaper, and we had many happy memories there, it still didn’t feel quite like home. But we were content; we belonged to a wonderful church, where we felt like family; we had amazing friends, great neighbors and lots of activities and opportunities in which to volunteer.

We moved from the Midwest (with me kicking and screaming inside my head) to the Pacific Northwest when my husband received a job promotion and relocation.  I was comfortable in the Midwest where we had lived for eight years, and it was a drivable distance to our home state from there, so I really did not want to leave.

In my heart and mind, I had hoped and prayed for hubby’s job relocation to take us nearer home, not further away.   So the day he announced a promotion and subsequent move to the west coast, I was shell-shocked.  Instead of moving closer to our home state, we were heading in the opposite direction!   One of my friends consoled me with this statement, “Well, look at it this way.  You can’t move any farther west; you’ll fall into the ocean!”  Some consolation.

Moving that far away from home felt like I was falling into the ocean!  It loomed huge and overwhelming in front of me, but for the sake of my children, I outwardly treated the move like a big adventure.   I strived diligently to discuss it in a positive manner so my children would embrace a healthy attitude about the upcoming upheaval.

Still it unnerved me to watch that gigantic moving van drive away from our Midwestern home with our entire household and our car loaded on it! With just our suitcases, we boarded a plane and flew to our new home on the West coast.  Despite my trepidation, the move did prove positive.

We settled nicely into a new house in a great neighborhood with an excellent school for our children, found a welcoming body of believers who quickly became like family, met life-long friends, and traveled up and down the Pacific Coast absorbing sights and places we never would have experienced if we had stayed in the Midwest.

But I never lost my yearning to go home.   T.S. Eliot wrote: “Home is where one starts from.”  In my heart, that was utter truth. I may have left my home behind, but home had never left my heart.

At some point, I engaged in a Bible study with a godly woman younger than me in age, but sometimes wiser.  Every week we discussed contentment and God taught me a tremendous amount about that subject.  I intend to write a blog post sometime in the near future sharing what I learned during that time.

I prayed often for God to help me latch onto the security of being content where He planted me.  A contented man is one who enjoys the scenery along the detours,someone once said, and I desired that.  However, I still tightly clutched the thought that the detours would surely lead me home where I would attain that long-sought-after contentment.

The Lord had other plans for us.  He kept us in the Pacific Northwest for six years.  Trips home were rationed to every other year because flying cross country for a family of five was expensive.  Job downsizing threatened hubby three times and the third time, my husband lost his job, but God amazingly provided a new one.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when it occurred, but I finally learned to be satisfied where God had planted us.  My husband and I traveled further in our walk of faith when God took us the farthest from home.  The area’s gorgeous scenery was awe-inspiring, but believers in Christ a minority there, so we quickly learned to be strong in our beliefs and to fully rely on the God who truly supplied all our needs.

And when I, in particular, learned that lesson, God showed me it was time to go home.

[Please come again tomorrow for the next installment in my Home Sweet Home series.]