On being homesick

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This excerpt is by Shauna Niequist, from her chapter called "Coming Home" pages 101-105:

One month ago today, the movers were unloading our furniture and boxes. We were trying to figure out the locations of light switches and where to piano should go. We slept fitfully that first night, because of the funny noises and silences in an unfamiliar home, and because Henry [her son] was sleeping in his big-boy racecar bed for the first time--a new bed and a new room. And now, somehow, it's been a month.

In the long expanse between teh planning and the actual moving, I dreamed about this house, and specifically, I dreamed about cooking in this house. I was so excited to stop traveling for a while, and to really live in a home, to be able to buy vegetables and not worry that they'd go bad while I was gone, Aaron [her husband] eating frozen meals night and day in my absence. I wanted people around our table, after a season of eating most of my meals in airports and hotel rooms, or collapsing onto the couch with hummus and crackers to watch a movie with Henry at the end of a hurried day.

And yesterday I realized that my dream has more than come true. On our very first night, my mom brought over thick roasted vegetable soup, and we sat around our table with my parents and Aaron's parents, telling funny moving stories, filled with gratitude for this home, and for all the answered prayers that it represents.

Since then we've had polenta with rosemary tomato sauce with Matt and Casey and their kids, eggs and bacon and blueberry sausages when Joe and Emily visited, and a long, lazy breakfast with scones and roasted potatoes with Alan and Sara and their family when they visited...

Before we moved, I had been dreaming about three things: feeding people, quiet writing mornings, and lots of time with Henry. Check, check, check. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

I know, really, that a month is nothing--a blip, a flash. But I also know that a few of the things that have been frantic and running around in me for the last few years are slowing down. And of course, a few aren't. I'm still the same old me, wriggling with self-doubt most days, and that's not something you leave at the state line, as much as I wish it was. But at the same time, some very important things have shifted.

Recently I saw a friend I hadn't seen in years. "I heard you're engaged!" I cried as I hugged her, exuberantly. "Congratulations!"

"I'm not engaged," she said. "I was, and I'm not anymore." Oh, heavens. I started to apologize, but she put her hand on my arm and interrupted me.

"It's all right," she said. "Breaking the engagement was the first conscious decision of my life." What an extraordinary statement. And as I spent time with her, I could see the truth of her words, the bloom of her eyes and skin and spirit. She had made a fundamental, defining choice, and it brought life and hope to her words and her world.

Her words rang in my ears because I wanted to make a conscious decision of my own, and her words gave a name to something I'd been aching for for a long time. Many of the key decisions in my life have been pretty natural--they sort of fell into being, or came about as I traveled life's path. Many of them just seemed like the next right thing, the most natural progression. But this move back to my hometown and the church I grew up in, as much as it looks natural to the outside observer, this move was one of the first conscious decisions of my life. This is what I wanted, what I prayed for, what I asked for from my husband.

For one of the first times in my life, as I thought and prayed about the possibility of this move, I became very quiet and still, and looked over my life like I was panning for gold in a river, seeing every single thing, the dirt and the water and the slubby green moss on the rocks. I looked and listened and wrote, and what I found is that I wanted to be home. Not everyone, I'm learning, has a deep sense of home. But for me, even after four years in Santa Barbara and six years in Grand Rapids, Chicago is still my home.

I was wrestling with the idea of home, and by wrestling, I mean I asked everyone I knew or ran into, drove them crazy with questions about their own sense of home, their memories and associations with the topic. We had dinner with our friends Doug and Shelley, and after dinner over a rich baked rice pudding I still think about, I asked them about home. They both grew up in Minneapolis, got married and had kids there, and then life and work took them to Dallas. But Doug realized that whenever he watched the weather, wherever he was, he was looking at Minnesota on the weather map. Whenever his plane arrived at the Minneapolis airport, even if he was just connecting to go on to another place, he felt like he was home.

That's how I feel about Chicago. Even after six years in Grand Rapids, when people asked me where I was from, I said Chicago, and then added that I currently lived in Grand Rapids, making it sound like I was cooling my heels there for six weeks or so, not that I owned a home and a lawnmower and a tailor, a pediatrician, and a regular breakfast place there.

And it wasn't that I didn't like Grand rapids. It's something under that, something a little more wiggly. It's that Chicago is familiar to me on a deep level, like when you recognize the melody of a song before you even realize there's music playing. Grand Rapids grew on me, in all sorts of ways. I settled in, had a baby there, found a few coffee shops and restaurants and friends that made me feel like we were building a little life there. But when the topic of home came up, home was Chicago.

And after the chaos and wildness of the last few years, I wanted to be home. I wanted a small house with lots of windows and no mice. I wanted to write, and to be with Henry, to travel less and cook more. I wanted to be a part of a church again, to volunteer and show up every week, to feel connected to the rhythm of it.

And today I'm filled with gratitude. For a woman who doesn't always know what she wants, I believed in a deep way this time around that this decision would lead us to our best future. I thought about it, wrote about it, prayed for it, talked to Aaron and to the people we walk closely with every step of the way. And here we are, one month into this beautiful new season, the one I held in my heart and my mind for so long. It isn't perfect, but I wasn't looking for perfect. This is what I've wanted, on a very deep level, and on an icy cold winter day, I'm overwhelmed by the sweetness of it. It feels good to be home.