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Friday, August 22, 2014

Home is Where Your Shell Is

Dear Mom,

Greetings from Telluride! Miss Karen and I keep saying how much you would have loved it here. We miss you so much.

Here's the view from her brother Bill's condo:

Can you imagine a lovelier place to read, write and think? I'm in heaven! (And I would still be in my jammies if I hadn't walked to get us some morning pastries for breakfast.)

Speaking of food, we had some really yummy nibbles on our first day, but those shots are on her camera, so they'll have to come in the next post.

We will fly out of Montrose next Thursday, but I flew directly into Telluride, which Miss Patsy informed me is the highest airport in North America...and one of the 10 most dangerous in the world!

As I posted on Facebook, "Holy chit! If there are female pilots who land at the Telluride airport, they may be the only ladies alive with bigger nuts than Gretchen Mashburn."

Gretchen responded that she appreciated the shout-out to her "very brassy, lezzy balls" and is currently obsessed with watching classic movies, inspired by Lauren Bacall's death. So far, she's taken in The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon, To Have and Have Not, and Casablanca, noting they are just as good the fifth time as they are the first. "CLEARLY Humphrey Bogart was AMAZING," she wrote. "Like my balls."

How can you not just love someone who is so unique and so comfortable in her own skin?!

Anyway, back to Telluride. What an absolutely delightful place! We are staying in Mountain Village, and you can ride the gondola down into the valley and explore the little town of Telluride. I didn't take my phone/camera the first day, as my battery was dead and I was trying to enjoy being offline a bit. But I did get a few more shots from here...

It's really a gorgeous condo, and I feel so lucky to be keeping Karen company. None of her kids could come out, so she needed a surrogate daughter for the week! And of course she and I can talk gangbusters about so many different topics. 

Feeling so comfortable being here with her -- so at home -- made me realize "HOME" needed to be the topic of today's blog post, as you would have loved the little exchange with Miss Betty last week. 

Most people know "MaBet" is obsessed with turtles. She found one in Michigan this summer... 
She feeds them in her yard...
Everybody thinks of her when they see one. People send her photos when they find them...

(This one was really QUITE fascinating to moi. Almost like a little digital safari!)
I took this photo when I was at the Museum of Natural History in Maputo and sent it to her.
She will occasionally "mark" a turtle as a tribute to someone. When the CSS turtle suddenly showed up in her yard again in March, the very week we were selling your house, it was like a special little sign...
You were still "with us," and your spirit would always be alive and well on Highland Avenue. 

And people who aren't churchy folks might laugh at us and say we're foolish to believe in such silly little "signs." But gosh -- if you don't believe in those funny little miracles of the world -- how do you get through life?!

Miss Betty and the turtles show all of us that there are little lessons all around us, nature is constantly teaching us things, if we just open our eyes a bit and use a little imagination. 
And apparently there's even a "homing turtle" in the neighborhood. Someone found one and brought it over to M.B.'s "turtle sanctuary," but that turtle slowly found its way back to the yard where it had come from. How fascinating! Proof we will find and remain in our place, no matter how others try to transplant us or interfere.

As I read the book "Orphan Train" recently -- one of Miss Patsy's summer reading recommendations -- I was struck by this passage and had to pass it along to "M.B." 

"Turtles carry their homes on their backs. They're exposed and hidden at the same time. They're a symbol of strength and perseverance." 
-- from Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
"I like this," she wrote back. "They are also hard but have a soft side. They are thinkers, slow to react, but once they decide it is full speed ahead. They are appreciative of the hand that feeds them. They are faithful. They also appreciate living in retirement mode."

And then she came back with a post script:  "Please note they carry their homes on their backs and not their house. There is a big difference."

Then I pasted a quote I'd gotten from a friend at work: 

“Home is people. Not a place. If you go back there after the people are gone, then all you can see is what is not there any more.” ― Robin Hobb

Well, why let yourself be topped by some person we don't even know?! Our beloved friend and neighbor, and the wisest fourth grade teacher in our little community, our MaBet delivered her winning shot:  
"The Home that you can carry with you is the love that you received from your people." - MaBet

Wow! Doesn't that just say it all? I think it's why I feel so grounded, so at peace these days. Even though there's a lot of sadness from your loss -- and time is healing that wound, as it always does -- it was such a gift to spend so much time in Quincy as we slowly said goodbye to you. Because Leigh Ann and I renewed our ties to our hometown. We came to terms with the special place that raised us.

We realized you can indeed have roots and wings in life. That home is where your shell is. 

In fact -- I wonder if finding that balance isn't key for all of us? Coming to terms with our roots, embracing the way we were raised, understanding what made our parents tick? 

I think it's more essential for some of us than others. Obviously, I'm a bit more -- oh, I don't think there is a word -- I'll just invent one: polycasamous -- than most. (See: polyamorous, polygamous...and throw in casa as your new root word for home.) Is there a real word for this? If so, please advise! I guess I could just say nomadic, but that's not quite it. 

Nevertheless, I was emailing with a friend this week who said he needs to stay far from home, that home for him wasn't and isn't a safe place. And I know there are many people who feel that way...who fill in the void with friends when their blood family just doesn't get it. 

And knowing that, embracing that, was one of the most beautiful things to me about the way you raised me. You embraced such a generous definition of family -- or, as I call it, "frelatives" -- it gave you such joy to know that your girls loved being surrounded by an intergenerational community -- that we sought that, we craved it, and we created it for ourselves in Charlotte. 

It's that hunger for belonging, feeling welcome, having a place, knowing you are loved, invited, included, expected to show up. 

You taught us to find it at church; other people find it through clubs or their jobs or sports or other outlets. And some people, sadly, lives their lives in the same place and never really find it.  

For years, Leigh Ann and I weren't in Quincy for Thanksgiving, as it was too far to travel for such a short holiday, since bankers didn't get Fridays off. And sometimes you'd come to Charlotte, but often, you'd stay and eat with Miss Betty and Miss Karen, an honorary member of the "extended Suber clan." 

And I think that theology of abundance, of inclusion, of the loaves and the fishes -- that no matter how many people show up, there's always room for one more -- should be at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. 

Now...we do not always hit that mark, do we?! We come up with silly, earthly rules to exclude others. We make up dress codes and age limits and gender roles and find all sorts of other ways to leave out people. It's little more than a grown-up equivalent of this: 
I've fallen in love with the Humans of New York posts on Facebook; I know you would have loved them too. This week, the writer is in Africa, and there have been some that are so delightfully universal... I loved this one, given the history of Coca-Cola in Quincy: 
 Or this one...which any mama can embrace...
And then there's this one -- about the concept of home, finding a place for yourself, feeling embraced and included -- which feels just the same in Kinshasa as it does in Quincy. 

Feeding others, making them feel welcome, included, that they have a place at the table -- that's what it means to create a home. 

When we were growing up, you always cooked a little extra. If there were six pork chops in the package, you'd go ahead and cook the extra two -- just in case somebody stopped by, or someone wanted a little extra. And if no one ate them, Dad would always polish them off at lunch the next day. 

I know your generous spirit is why James Scott loved you so much; whenever you cooked us supper at the farm, you always had a plate for him. It's why Cookie and Mattie were so attached to you. Because even when you were so sick, when you weren't eating enough, you wanted to make sure they were fed. 

Thanks be to God for all of those who fed our family -- literally and figuratively -- to the people who welcome me in, who make me feel included, who give me a place at their table, a bed in their condo, an air mattress on their floor. May I be radically generous enough to return the favor, to remember always that home is people, not a place. 

Because home is where you park your shell -- whether it's for a night, a week, a year, or a lifetime. 



1 comment:

Laurie said...

This really struck a chord with me, coming from the Q as well, and losing a parent. You have a new appreciation of where we came from and where we've traveled to get to this point. Beautiful piece. Xo. (You can have a room in Tampa anytime!)