Tag Archives: homesickness

Pumpkin Patch Peril

Last week my son had a day off school, so we trekked 25 miles to meet some of his school mates at Walter’s Pumpkin Patch.

pumpkin arrangement

pumpkin arrangement

This is the first fall in my son’s life we won’t be pumpkin and apple picking at America’s largest, family-owned, pick-your-own orchard, Eckert’s in Belleville, Illinois. We’re mourning the loss of Pumpkin Jamboree weekends and phenomenal fried chicken. But this year Eckert’s is 458.78 miles away.

Yes, I MapQuested it.

corn maze exit

maze exit

Walter’s isn’t the same as Eckert’s, but it’s still a blast. We were there on a weekday, so we had the place to ourselves including paddle boats, underground slides, an in-ground trampoline, corn maze, people-sized hamster wheel, giant seesaw, tree houses, and of course pumpkin picking.

Now my son has never struggled with separation anxiety. From the moment I dropped him off at nursery school, he’s not been one to look back. There are places to go, things to do, people to see. Mom? Mom who?

Walter’s was no different. He jumped head first into the activities, oblivious to my whereabouts. After lunch, he took off with his friends on their next adventure, leaving me in the dust.

I walked over to the country store to to chat up the owner. Turns out she knows the Eckert’s people. We discussed the finer points of Walter’s transformation into a destination farm.

As I strolled out of the store, I saw a small, lonely figure standing a block away from me on the driveway. Was that my child? Was he crying?

“What’s the matter?” I said as I got to him and held him. “Are you okay?”

“I couldn’t find you,” he said. “I thought you left me at the pumpkin patch!”

“Oh, no,” I said, “Mommy will never leave you.”

It was a promise I couldn’t keep, and I knew it the second the words came out.

“Mommy will never leave you at the pumpkin patch,” I said as if that clarification somehow helped.

Life is full of changes and loss. There will come a day when I will leave him—not by choice, never by choice. Death comes at the most inconvenient times.

Or he may leave me first. I pray not by death, but by growing up. His father and I are raising him with the goal that one day he’ll be independent of us. However, I can’t promise I won’t follow him if he moves away. Don’t you want me to be your daughter’s mother-in-law now?

We dried the tears and talked about how we both needed to tell each other where we were going to be, especially in strange, new places.

The school counselor’s words often haunt me, sloshing big buckets of guilt: “Moving is one of the top five most traumatic experiences for a child.”

Oh, Lord, what have we done.

“I miss Eckert’s,” said my son. So do I, baby. So do I.

pumpkin arrangement

pumpkins on porch

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV

Brand new from an album due to release in January 2013, please listen to Need You Now by Plumb.

How do you deal with loss? How do you help your children deal with it?

 

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A Land Without Squirrels

X-Files David Duchovny as Fox Mulder, image from wikipedia

David Duchovny as Agent Fox Mulder in The X-Files, image from wikipedia

Month eight in Wichita. We’ve yet to see a squirrel in our yard. Time to call Fox Mulder.

We’ve seen robins, turtles, rabbits, toads, barn swallows, cardinals, deer, muskrats, herons, and a turkey who crossed the road, but no squirrels.

This wouldn’t be a big deal except we have a dog whose favorite pastime is hunting squirrels. Flamboyant St. Louis squirrels.

Cairn terriers are bred to hunt vermin. Ella was only a few months old when once during a walk back in St. Louis, a squirrel fell out of his tree and landed on me. I screamed. The squirrel ran. My cute, innocent, downy-headed puppy sprang into action transformed. Ella didn’t catch the squirrel, but she treed him and wouldn’t move.

St. Louis Cardinals Rally Squirrel

rally squirrel

Long before Rally Squirrel gained World Series fame, the squirrels of St. Louis infested the attics of our old houses. They chewed through electrical wires. They picked our young, blushing tomatoes, eating a single bite before leaving them ruined and discarded on fence posts. With ardor, they hollowed out our Halloween pumpkins.

Our neighbor Bob got fed up with them one spring. We’d see the barrel of his pellet gun poking out his second-story window.

The lone gunman shot more than 80 squirrels that year, but didn’t make a dent in the population.

Another neighbor Larry owned an exceptional golden retriever. Yankee was as perfect as a dog can be in both temperament and stature. When Yankee died, Larry posted a eulogy on a tree in the park: “For Yankee, fine dog and companion, who caught 16 squirrels here. You will be missed.

Our dog Ella never caught a squirrel, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Now she doesn’t have a chance.

I thought of this one night when I couldn’t sleep. It’s the little things like squirrels, forgotten toys, and expired cake mixes that get to me.

In the dark, I could see the outline of Ella’s tiny body curled up on her bed beside mine. How sad she hasn’t chased a squirrel since we left St. Louis. Poor little dog, been through so much.

How much more her owners.

We humans navigate the changes of life, flying and leaping and scuttling through as best we can. We try not to fall, but often we do anyway.

We run for recovery in the next city, job, or relationship. We race away from the sadness only to find it has cornered us and will not let us go without a fight.

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14 NIV

Counting Crows are a favorite. So is their cover of Start AgainEven though it’s complicated, we got time to start again…

What “squirrels” keep you up at night?
How do you put them to rest?

 

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The Curious Case of Transferential Homesickness

Homesickness must be a result of The Fall. How else did it become so ingrained in my psyche?

Welcome to Wichita, Kansas, All-America City

welcome to Wichita

I haven’t cried much over our move from St. Louis to Wichita. That is, not until we visited St. Louis two weeks ago.

I cried in church and at the hotel. I cried for the people we visited and the people we missed seeing this trip. I teared up at Ladue Nails, the zoo, and the Galleria.

When I lived in St. Louis, I couldn’t wait to leave. Whistle me Dixie and send me packing to North Carolina where I was raised. Where life is normal.

Now that I live in Wichita, I’m still homesick for The South. But I also long for the Lou, where life is normal.

“I’m homesick,” I said to my husband. “But I’m not sure for what!”

“You’re homesick for everything and everyone we’ve known,” he said.

Well, that about covers it.

Sometimes I think my husband could be happy living in a van down by the river. Or on a farm. Or in a city. Or a small town. Or just about anywhere else you can imagine. His parents gave him luggage for graduation if that tells you anything.

But I pine for a sense of place. I feel a need to belong somewhere.

Chicago downtown river view

my kind of town, Chicago is

I’ve belonged several somewheres on our tour de relocation, and now I miss them all. Even Chicago looks inviting.

If there ever comes a time when we leave Wichita to go home, where will that be exactly? Will I miss Kansas then the way I miss my former homes today?

Transference is a psychoanalytic concept meaning the inappropriate redirection of feelings from one relationship to another. Sigmund Freud came up with it, so take it with a grain of salt.

Transference occurs between people. I wonder if it can happen between a person and a place, too. Like Scarlett O’Hara and the red earth of Tara.

Those struck by locational transference struggle through life in a never-ending episode of homesickness. Missing, missing, always missing. A framework of loss their only constant.

Reframing is another therapy concept. It dares to find a different way to look at things.

Maybe the never-ending episode is really a pursuit of Home. The people and the familiar. The smells and seasons. The moments of contentment, love, and belonging taken for granted. The state of normal once found in a place and time.

We forge new relationships as life moves along—we have to. But this lingering homesickness accompanies us. It reminds us to embrace contentment where we find it because things may change tomorrow. It drives us on to recapture a place we left behind a long time ago. A place called Home.

They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that… from Hebrews 11:13-16 The Message

me and Steven Curtis Chapman at the airport in Nashville

me & Steven Curtis Chapman

Long Way Home is the latest from my favorite singer with three names Steven Curtis Chapman. Remember the time we were on the same plane to Nashville?

Have you ever been homesick? How did you move forward?

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Southern Comfort

southern comfort

Back in the fall I befriended another Southerner living in St. Louis. Our sons are in the same class at school.

She’s a talented physician, here finishing her second residency. We were sitting on a blanket in the September humidity at a parents’ luncheon or a soccer game. Making small talk as the conversation was about to turn big.

“You’re from The South too,” she said. “I hear the accent.”

“Yes, I grew up in North Carolina,” I said.

“Tennessee for me,” she said.

“How long you been here?” I said.

“Nine years.” she said. “You?”

“We’ve been in the Midwest going on 14 years,” I said. “Two in Chicago and 12 in St. Louis.”

Then we gave each other the look.

The look is difficult to explain. It’s kind of a rolling of the eyes, a nervous laugh, a heavy resigned sigh. More of an understanding than a look.

“We’ve been here all these years,” I said, “but still find it difficult to feel at home. And St. Louis is not The South.”

Her eyes popped open, wide as teacup saucers. “No, it’s not The South,” she said in a loud whisper. “I keep telling my husband that, and he says it’s all the same, but it’s not.”

“No,” I said, my own eyes wide now and my voice reverently low yet liberated. “It’s not.”

Here was a kindred soul. A Southern sister exiled in the Midwest.

Despite my bellowing I’m a Tarheel born and a Tarheel bred three hundred times to the Carolina fight song, I was not born in The South. I moved there when I was seven and stayed for 20 years.

At first I didn’t like it, especially the accents. Mostly because my new friends razzed me for not having one. Now those accents are so precious I nearly cry when I hear one in passing at the airport.

Without my knowledge, The South grew on me as I grew up in it. I only left for the promise of bustling Midwestern river towns. Work, work, always work.

Now 14 years later, I’m awake again and wondering how did I end up here? When’s the next train home?

Of course there are many, many good things about St. Louis and the Midwest. The Zoo, the Art Museum, the Arch, Forest Park, the Balloon Glow, the Cardinals, the Loop, frozen custard, gooey butter cake, Mai Lee.

Endless rows and rows of corn and soybeans stretching out over miles and miles of flat, flat land. Grayed prairies washed green and yellow and blue with a storm. It could grow on you. It could be home.

Life is complicated now. Can’t just pick up and move. How would my child adjust? What about school and church? What about the house? What about work, work, work?

Ran into my Southern soul sister at the Botanical Garden a few weekends ago. She’s in the last days of her medical training and has secured a job.

It’s in Birmingham.

Look homeward, angel. Look home.

All my longings lie open before you, O Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you. Psalm 38:9 NIV

What better way to end than with a country song complete with whiskey, tobacco and lonely. Savor the tender twang of Patty Loveless in A Thousand Times a Day.

A true Tarheel, Thomas Wolfe was born in Asheville, NC. Look Homeward, Angel: A Story of the Buried Life, his first novel, was published in 1929. It is believed to be autobiographical.

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