Tuesday, May 20, 2014

2014: My year at home

It is hard to believe that New Year’s Day was almost 6 months ago.  I wrote this prompt the first week of the year and returned to it this week to edit.  It’s always so funny to look back at what the year ahead seemed like before it had really begun. 

1/6/14 Imagine that you are moving and shoved in the bottom of an old box is a photograph you had totally forgotten about.  On the back in your handwriting is the phrase “2014, the year of _____” Describe the photo and fill in the blank.  

I pulled out pile after pile of old tax papers, instructions, warrantees, and photographs.  As I set them beside me they splayed over the floor creating a mass of frustration.   But one photo caught my eye.  I smiled as I picked it up.  I was of my son James as a toddler.  He and I were going sledding in old cardboard boxes from Costco.  I turned the picture over and on the back I had scratched, “2014, the year of home.”  

As I mechanically began to straighten and sort the piles I reflected on the image and the year.  I had taken an extended maternity leave from work that year.  2014 has been a year when I let go of my teens, my 20s, my career and embarked upon what was likely the second third of my life.  

For most of my life my personality had made me task oriented, high achieving and career minded.  But after the birth of my little girl, I realized that my career needed to be put on hold for a bit. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to work.  I love being a teacher, it’s just that I needed to learn how to be at home, how to teach my own kids.  I had no idea how challenging this would prove to be or how rewarding.  

That photograph was important to me because it captured a turning point.  I had always seen home as a static place.  An oasis, the eye of a storm, the shelter from rain.  My frustration was that I had a hard time keeping it that way.  I’d tidy everything up and get my ducks in a row only to realize that I wasn’t a good enough home maker to keep out the storm.  It was maddening.  Something was always “going wrong.” Things were constantly falling apart. I grasped at little moments of peace and quiet. But deep down I just wanted to go back to work where I could accomplish something.  

That day while sledding I decided to let it go. I wanted to stop obsessing over what might happen if I didn’t do things right.  I plowed down that hill with my little boy, free to giggle and laugh heedless of how long we stayed or how fast we managed to go.  And as we walked home I realized that it was more than just a house or apartment.  The expectations and assumptions of “homemaking” that had held me hostage began to loosen their grip. I payed no heed to the rings of ice trying to handcuff my wrists and ankles where my gloves didn’t quite cover and my socks didn’t exactly protect. 

2014 was full of adventure. Watching my kids grow inch by inch, pound by pound.  I found that home isn’t a museum full of perfect tableaus it is a place for living and moving forward despite missteps, missing socks, misinterpretations, miscues, any form of mistake or misunderstanding.  Home is never the same two days in a row, it isn’t a formula or mold or diorama.  Home is a canvas upon which we cast the art of our day to day lives.  It can be beautiful or frightful.  But there is no place that I would rather be.  

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