He pulled a leaf off of a flower arrangement from his daughter's funeral service and crumpled it up. He held it to his nose and breathed it in and declared it eucalyptus. He handed it to Craig, who did the same. "Maybe mint?" They sort of both shrugged their shoulders in the exact same way, and the crumpled leaf was discarded.
He had a nervous energy about him - bouncing his foot while he sat, circling outside the house - shuffling his feet through the late summer grass. His hands were eternally in his pockets, his sunglasses loosely hung from his neck, and his left eyelid drooped slightly over his dark, somber eyes. His voice was deep, and he walked with a sense of purpose that only a career military man can have. I was standing right next to Craig when his uncle Jan walked through the door and called out a greeting. I turned to Craig because I thought he had said something to me - that's how much their voices resemble each other.
Jan and his wife Carrie don't visit home very often. And as I sat with them at a dinner table that used to sit in his mother's home, I couldn't help but wonder. Did he feel the shift? Could he hear it whispering in the wild, holy Nebraska wind?
This is who you are.
This is where you come from.
This is the place that still has pictures of you hanging on the wall, lamps from your Momma's house, and a sure warmth that you can only find in the people that know all of your heavy hearted burdens, your struggles, and your imperfect wins.
Did he sense it when his loafers skidded through the gravel drive at his sister's house?
Did he hear home calling him in the towels whipping on the clothesline?
Did his eyes pass over the hazy August horizon, and could he remember what his momma smelled like?
This morning Jan and and Carrie flew back home. They boarded a plane at the crack of dawn, and with heavy, sure steps, they found their seats. The plane took off about the time the sun was rising for the day, cresting over rows and rows of corn and beans that are nowhere to be found where they live. They landed at home where everything is the same, but everything is different. About a month ago, their daughter passed away in an accident. Their grief is etched on their faces in some kind of old world hieroglyphic that only a select, sorrowful club of parents can read.
And they were here - home - for such a brief second.
I couldn't help but wonder, as their rental car left Jo-Jo's drive, if their cup was filled back up, as well. In the laughter found over mashed potatoes and fried chicken just like his momma's ... the fresh corn and tomatoes grown in a garden down the road ... in the kitties hiding under the porch, and the sunflowers now grown taller than all of us ... I wondered if they were leaving with a little bit of peace that only home can provide.
I thought a lot about the Prodigal Son parable from Luke this weekend. A boy leaves home to go do the things, and then comes home and his dad (and family) welcome him back. But the boy has changed - he's different. [I'm obviously leaving a ton out. I know.]
We had a big weekend.
The Boyfriend went to high school with a man named Lucas Hoge. Lucas went off into the great unknown to be a country singer. And wouldn't you know? He's sort of walking his way into some success. This weekend, he came home to play a show.
The sun sunk down low and Craig and his momma visited with everyone they've always ever known, and the wind blew through my hair. It was the perfect weather for a little outdoor concert, and we sat at a picnic table with some family. Lucas came on stage and played for an hour and a half.
He stood up there and sang a few songs with his daddy and brother, jumped around, strummed his guitar, introduced his band, and people sat with rapt attention. Little girls cartwheeled in front of the stage and the pride that the crowd felt rose up into the humid air. The sparkling ... hope ... that people fed back to him was remarkable.
He's their kid. Everyone's kid. Byron, Nebraska's kid. Pounding out his song on a guitar, he received their love and poured it right back into his cup. At the end of the night, fireworks lit up the sky, and people packed up their chairs and went home. Their hometown boy signed autographs, sold CDs, and took pictures with fans. As people left, you could almost hear the hum of voices all chanting the same thing.
It takes a village.
It takes a village.
It takes a village.
We will always help push you forward.
Wrapping their farmer tanned arms around his shoulders, the people - his people - collectively recognized pieces of home in the notes he sang, the simple shrug of his country boy shoulders, and the broad smile that never left his face. Each of them thinking, "Yes, son. Yes. You can go off into this world, but we will always be waiting right here for you. Ready and waiting to fill your cup right back up when you need it."
Because that's the thing about home, you know?
Whether you're a rising country star, or a bereft, grieving parent ... there's just something about coming back to center. Coming back to the place that has you folded into the tapestry of shared history ... coming back to the place that will always be just ...
The Boyfriend and I left Jo-Jo's house this morning and she hugged us both and told us she'd see us soon. The wind is unrelenting at her house, and the leaves were rustling. I took one last look around before I got into the car. Fall is coming. Everything is about to be bathed in orange and yellow and red. The door thunked shut, and we waved one last time.
Fitzgerald wrote that you can always come back home. It smells the same. Looks the same. Feels the same. It's all the same. You realize that you are what has changed. And isn't that just the truth? We grow and change and move. The gentle tug of the dirt you played in as a kid and the creek bed that stole your heart will always beckon to you.
Just ... waiting.
Experiences will take you away from home.
But love will always bring you back.
Holy sweet baby Jesus. This week.
1) My niece and nephew - Cora and Jake - are in swimming and basketball. Jake just won first place in the backstroke and The Brother just sent a picture of Cora making a shot off a steal/fast break in a basketball game. The Brother and I have like 1,000% personality and like .2% athletic ability. He's like some kind of runner and I'm like some kind of not. So when he sends pictures of The Chillun doing these weird things like winning - I get all kind of sappy and happy.
2) I bought two soft tacos tonight at Taco Bell even though I have tacos ALREADY MADE at home. You take those judge-y eyes and put those back in your pocket. They were so good. #allthepraisehands
3) I went to Wal-Mart tonight intending to buy some of The Gen's school supplies BECAUSE THAT IS HAPPENING, YOU GUYS, and instead I bought ice cream sandwiches, a couple of bags of Quaker Chewy Bites (like M&Ms only so much better), and pre-made pancakes. I am clearly off my game today.
Sidenote: Do you ever think checkers just wonder what the ever living heck your life is like? I was in the Wal-Mart a few days ago (#teacherlife) and the lady in line in front of me was buying like 273085 bags of pork rinds. Like it was the entire conveyor belt and they were piled on top of each other. What are you making with that many pork rinds? I stood behind her in line and Pinterest-ed "pork rind recipes" and Pinterest LOL'd at me. Perhaps because it's pig skin? I dunno.
4) We need to talk about my car, you guys. So the plastic-shield-thingie was replaced this week and it took FIVE HOURS. They're all like, "See you in a half hour!" And nope. The sweet maintenance guy (that is just like only eighteen seconds old) said he'd give me a Toyota Camry as a courtesy vehicle and nope again. I walked inside to find my new favorite sales guy and said in my best-good fake-blonde voice, "I need a courtesy vehicle for the entire morning." He gave me a new Tahoe to drive and I was like TAKE ALL THE TIME YOU NEED AND CAN I HAVE A FREE DIET MOUNTAIN DEW?
So today at school - which is on top of the windiest hill in the entire world - the plastic-shield-piece was all jiggly again. I called my mom and she said, "Time to get mad!"
I think I just called her just to get confirmation that it was okay to not just make a scene, but to also just go ahead and make it a whole dang Broadway musical.
5) I'm hosting a back to school giveaway next week. Think Vera Bradley, LuLaRoe, an Amazon gift card, an ebook from moi, and Kate Spade. Be on the looooooookout! :)
I'm pretty sure that's just quite enough ridiculousness from this week. I'm glad tomorrow is Friday - aka: The Day BFF Suzy and I Attend A Former Student's Bachelorette Party.
Because why not.
"What are men to rocks and mountains?"
. About Moi .
I love, love, love flannel sheets and I am really passionate about lists on post it notes and most of the time I'm sad that no one else is as excited as I am about Diet Mountain Dew. I also adore run-on sentences.
He saw her before he saw
anything else in the room.
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
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