“But where, after we have made the great decision to leave the security of childhood and move into the vastness of maturity, does anyone feel completely at home?” Madeleine L’Engle*
This last month I have met up with a number of very special friends who now live overseas. These are the kind of people with whom you skip the small talk, even though it might have been years since you saw each other face to face. There is no time to waste on pleasantries, we dive straight into the important stuff of life. How we feel, what we love, our partners and children, our fears and hopes. Vital conversations.
But I know it is only a matter of time until they leave again, and I will have to hold them in my heart because I won’t be able to hug them and make them tea.
As well as these long term life-friends who are making their lives in places more exotic and unusual than me, recently a number of the people who I turn to day-to-day have decided to move away. The closest and most everyday of friends, who know about the routine of my week and the mood swings of my children. Intimate friends who have been there in the real grot, who know me good and bad. The kind who will challenge me and cheer me on.
I want the best for them, but selfishly I wish the best was here.
Home isn’t a place, it is people. It is the crucial relationships.
I am sick for home. Home-sick.
My parents are stepping down from leading the church they have led, and I have attended for twenty three years. (And of course, there will be more writing about being brought up in a church and all the weird and wonderfulness of that, but for now…) A few weeks ago there was a special Sunday service where they shared their thoughts with the congregation at the end of this chapter. They are not leaving Liverpool, or the church, just stepping aside for a new leader to take the reins. I didn’t expect the overflow of emotion I felt in that service. I was undone. Standing with the extended family (all eight hundred of them) who have known and loved my parents and by extension have seen and known (or thought they did) me, I was overcome. Overwhelmed. I felt as though I was seeing my life through a kaleidoscope. Images, moments, words, feelings. Rooms and buildings, holidays and relationships. The good, the bad and the ugly. The comforting and the frankly disturbing.
A part of me feels as though my house has been burnt down.
I didn’t chose the be a daughter of the pastor. I often didn’t like it. But it is who I am. A large part of what I know. I have been formed and changed and moulded by these experiences.
And I feel home-sick.
My eldest daughter turned eleven a couple of weeks ago. She is now at an age that I remember very clearly. I remember my eleventh birthday party, and the events of the following year. For me it was in many ways the last year of my childhood. Before I was twelve we had moved to Liverpool and left everything I knew behind. I was not an adult by default, but I had entered a kind of no-mans-land where I was no longer a child, too much had changed. I knew too much to still consider myself a child with the freedom and security of childhood days. But I also knew I was way out of my league trying to be an adult.
I look at my beautiful girl, and I wonder if she is feeling that way, or do I have a couple of years left where my children are happy to be just that, children.
I feel discombobulated by this. Everything is changing.
And in this time of shifting sands, of the foundations altering, I am trying to hold on to the things I know to be true. I am loved. I have a place to belong. There is good stored up for me and I can keep walking forward confident that I am held, and secure.
With every change there is a loss, a grief.
And I dig into this pain, looking for truth and mining for the joy that is always in the mix.
And as I do I glimpse hope and possibility looking back at me.
And if this post feels unfinished that is because not everything gets neatly resolved. There isn’t a moral to every tale. Just a deep pit-of-my-stomach, even-when-i can’t-see-what-next-looks-like, trust (or maybe you could call it faith).
I know there is still, despite all the change, great things ahead.
* from A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle