I had a bit of a breakdown driving home from Tallahassee last Thursday night. I knew this portion of our transition, particularly the Mama's in Tallahassee half the week while everyone else is at home part, was going to be difficult on us, and I'll admit I'm truly struggling with it. My friend Monica Moran said I just might enjoy having some time to myself, but that hasn't happened yet, Monica!
What caught me on the way home was a song, as it often is with me. It was Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me." I learned this song on guitar when it first came out about five years ago, and it's always touched my heart. Rarely can I get through it without choking up. I didn't really have a "house that built me" growing up. We moved around quite a bit. I wasn't a military brat, but rather a child of several divorces. My mom took her own life while going through her third divorce, and my father is currently on his third marriage. As I was driving home last week, I tried to count up all the places I've lived, and I believe I'm on my 20th residence! 21st if you count my current apartment in Tallahassee (and this doesn't include my dad's places since I lived with my mom after their divorce and off and on after college until I got my own footing). Best that I can remember, I wasn't in any one place longer than about five years. What does that mean? That means that I've lived in my current home--the one on which I've kept pots of red geraniums on the front steps from day one, only leaving them bear during our coldest months--three times longer than any other place I've lived in my entire life.
I told Benny that while sitting in the driveway learning the in's and out's of the vehicle that came along with my new job. He looked at me for a long moment and said, "Wow...okay...now I get it." Now he gets why I'm struggling so much. It's more than just being away from my family half the week. It's more than going through the challenges and stressors of learning a new job after 20 years at the college. The most difficult part of this whole process for me is wrapping my head around the fact that, come summer, I will no longer be living in this house. That's what truly breaks my heart. You may say, ah, come on, it's just a house. And sure, if you just look at the physical structure, yes, it's just a house (though one with dolphins in the backyard...)
But it's our dream house. It's our house that took us 14 months to build, through crooked framing and hanging out the third story windows painting, boarding up the doors and windows when the house was almost done due to the threat of category 5 Hurricane Floyd, and all our appliances and plumbing fixtures being stolen before we could move in. It's our house that we planned to live in until we could no longer safely navigate all the stairs, and then we were going to put in an elevator so we wouldn't have to. So what does all this mean? I'm not sure yet. But I'll admit that if we don't find the right family to rent our house, I won't be disappointed. I'll suck it up and pay a mortgage in Jacksonville and a steep rent payment in Tallahassee. Because this is home. This IS the house that built me, and the house that built this family. Yes, I know we'll return here when I retire, at least eight years from now. I've always dreamed of giving my girls the upbringing that my husband experienced, one in which parents didn't get divorced and they lived in the same house forever. A house that when they went off to college, got married and had babies of their own, they could come home to. And they'd remember it as the house that built them. And they'd tell their own kids about the time they had a geranium party on the front porch with Mama, clutching blooms in their hands before taking them apart and throwing the petals in the air for the wind to catch and spread all over the yard.
Every night when I say my prayers, I include the exact same prayer: "Dear Lord, please continue to help us through this transition." I'm still going to make that dream happen, regardless of having a new job in Tallahassee. My girls will always know the house that built them. After all, while we won't be living here for a while, it's only a two and a half hour drive away and I have a feeling we'll be making that trip often.