“Never” should never be spoken unless referring to never using such an oblivious word because sometimes the inconceivable is suddenly possible.
In January I wrote a blog, “That Time You Let Go.” It was inspired by someone who shared that the loss of her mother left her with paralyzing grief. Only once had I experienced the inability to move forward because of loss: when my family gave up our ancestral home of fifteen acres on the shores of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. With that came a period in which I cycled through powerful grief – from sorrow to anger to the mildest peace. At the time I penned that blog I thought that I had that whole experience figured out. Then I received an email.
The new owners of our land had not only read my piece but they invited my husband, children, and me to stay in the guesthouse that overlooks what I once called home! Um, what? I must’ve read that email about ten times, stunned, and thinking I could never – never! What good would come from reminding me of what I no longer have? That would be like my deceased orange tabby stopping by for a quick visit and then heading back to the other side of the rainbow. No, thanks. I don’t need those tears. Most everyone agreed. I would be navigating my stay with nostalgia and the pangs would hurt too deeply. But there was more to my hesitation. Going back would maybe be considered by others a sign that I was over my devastation. I could never.
But there was even more to consider.
What I had mourned mostly was everything my children wouldn’t know: traipsing through the woods in the back property, tearing across the big front lawn, crashing into the calm of the bay, and being with cousins, aunts, and uncles – all of these things on the same day. This wasn’t just about me anymore. I would jump in front of a bus to save my children, but I wouldn’t let them experience heaven on earth because of my sensitivity and pride? I could never.
So I said yes.
I cried as I drove up the driveway on the property. The first night there I sipped bourbon and listened to the katydids while “Sloop John B” played on loop, a Beach Boys song we would sing while my father plucked away on the banjo late at night on the old front porch in the old days. The refrain goes, “Let me go home. I want to go home. Why don’t you let me go home?” There I was, plopping tears into my drink, asking the same. So much looked like home. But was it really?
At dawn I woke to the blue morning light outlining the branches of the oak trees outside my window. For an instant, I was home. Later my kids tore across the lawn to the beach, freedom at their fingertips. I paused on the bluff and looked out. Again, for a moment, I was home.
That night we fished with the new owners. The spirit was generous and gentle. I sensed they wanted us to feel at home.
The third day I stopped hovering, giving my kids free reign. They could navigate their time, guided by their own curiosity and not my nostalgia. They needed to establish their own sense of belonging. They may not have the same amount of memories stored as I, but they would know this place after all.
Day four I wrote this blog on the balcony of the guesthouse, surrounded by the shadows of oak trees I could recognize anywhere, facing a view whose charm didn’t fade, and listening to the sounds of my children’s laughter floating in the breeze. Home isn’t where we lay our heads each night. It’s something we feel when worry dissolves. My sister has joined me now. We’ve cried together, but have mostly rejoiced. Our hope was restored.
Because I know enough to know now that I can go home again if I choose to forgive history. It’s more than letting go. It’s making actual peace with what I resented. For me, it starts by accepting the generosity of two of the nicest people I’ve met in a long, long time. Good people do what they have done for us. Something that rich with goodness can only be merciful if accepted. These circumstances aren’t what I had planned. But I am here again.
We can all go home again when we learn how to live with hurt. It could involve forgiving the people or events that caused it? Maybe it involves forgiving ourselves? Home is relative and individual. But the pathway home isn’t paved with resentment.
At the end of time it won’t matter who owned what but rather how we responded to one another. I was oblivious that there would be a silver lining to this sad story only if I was willing to accept that.
It’s good to be home.
Originally published in New Orleans Magazine online.