Let me back up and set the stage for how we came to spend time in Lincoln, New Hampshire. This story is about finding a place you can stay for a month without knowing anything about anywhere near it.
Well, it’s a ski town. It will be summer when we are there. We know that feeling from our time in the mountains of New Mexico in summer, right? What draws people there when there is no snow? There’s a river.
The place is a condo. People don’t strictly go there to be cooped up in the condo. The outdoor space is the draw. But, our family of five will be living there, not necessarily retreating or vacationing there, though partly so. It fit our budget. We hadn’t discussed what we would do if we hated it; love or toleration were the only realities we contemplated. Well, we loved it.
I think I’ve had a difficult time giving words to this because the only word to describe what I feel thinking back on Lincoln is transformed.
Before this, I thought only homes were the places with the weight to do that. There’s my childhood home. Our house in Roswell, where we brought our first baby home. She destroyed my sleep so effectively that I picture that house in the dark, holding her in the early morning. In that way and countless others, her taking up space in our world is encapsulated in the walls of that house. We uncovered a new life with this new presence and got to contain that in our own space.
With our other babies, I feel that, too. How precious the memory is of that time connected with that space and vice versa. Those little legs running around, stomping on our deck, playing partially clothed in our backyard. A good chunk of that was in forced isolation during a pandemic. “Bye-bye Dada dance” in the front windows as I drive off to work. It is priceless.
We sold our house on Robin Walk (you know, earlier in this trip), and it unmoored us.
I don’t think we knew that. Sure, it is obvious. You don’t have a house or apartment. There’s no home.
But the unmooring here is not a loss. Instead, it helped me process a loss I had already experienced that I did not yet know in depth. And here, I have trouble describing it. It is something substantial and gradual. I did not realize I had lost anything until I opened the puzzle box, started to assemble the puzzle, and finally saw the gap where the missing piece would fit. Yet, describing it reads inconsequential, maybe even petty.
Before Lincoln and the several weeks on the road preceding it, backing up to the years we spent in The Woodlands, I had been trying to work out what being good is. Parent, friend, partner, child, Christian. (Employee/laborer, too, but that is a different post). I am less confident in all of these now. But, in my doubt, I can be far more forgiving with myself and, in turn, authentic and more open to other humans.
Right now, being a good parent means talking way more than I have the energy but talking far less to lecture. My kids did not ask to be here, but they are because of me. So, in my words and actions, I am building an invitation to hear from my child because we all are worthy of a full measure of respect from the moment we are born.
A good friend is trickier, almost. Dear old friends might not recognize my current incarnation, but the part they cherish is still there. I nurture him. I am helping him let go of unhelpful attachments. And, as I show up now, I have a more difficult time finding new friends. That may be the tradeoff of being who I currently am, but, likely, it is harder for me to be fully present as a friend when parenting is all-consuming.
Partner. Here, I am so lucky. I am known and accepted. I know and accept. We grow co-extensively. What an incredible gift for the very different person I was at 19 and now in my near-40s to have found the one person who loved and loves both. With my partner, we have the best group project you could ever have, and we are enthusiastically sharing in responsibilities, anticipating our devoted work will pay off.
Child. It is as challenging to see your parents grow old as it is for them to be able to look past you as that baby (much as I describe my children stomping on my deck, my parents have those moments of my childhood bottled). I love my parents, and I struggle to connect with them sometimes. I respect them and am grateful for the many ways they eased my journey in this challenging world.
Christian. This one is last because it is woven into the others. I don’t know. I do know the communities we grew up in earlier in our marriage would not have us anymore, nor us them. This is the obliterating loss—a key puzzle piece—but it’s not all bad. I am now more here because many ideas I thought were fundamental are no longer a teleological foundation. I am atomic. I am matter. I am far more comfortable in my raw, purposed existence and the depth of human pain and pleasure. I am much less confident and worry far less about being wrong. So, the late daylight washing over me and my family as we wait for pizza or ice cream in the summer air of New Hampshire is both quotidian and profound.
Which is where I find myself hopping around rocks in the Pemi. My children are joyous, and so am I. I don’t think there could be anything better because there isn’t. The five of us in the cold waters of the river. There is no home.
This is home now.
Rivers: two (+ Pemigewasset)
Lakes: one (Echo Lake in Franconia, NH)