We’ve just returned from two weeks of vacation. Typically when Ian has his two weeks of Army training sometime in the summer I close up the store and take the kids to visit friends and relatives in other states. This year got complicated because we were planning our trip around one set of dates, then that plan got scrapped for a new and improved set of dates, and then the Army decided rather last minute that never mind, not this summer. (The Army is fun on so many levels.) The upside to all that confusion was that, in the end, Ian got to come with us on our vacation. It’s been a great couple of weeks.
The first part of our trip took us to the cottage, which by the end of the trip was our cottage.
I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that, but one of my cousins
who is a lawyer wrote up the appropriate paperwork, and while Ian and I
and my mother and uncles were all gathered on a Saturday evening we
signed papers and wrote checks and now the place is officially ours.
Amazing. But I have a whole separate post I’d like to write about our
cottage adventure after I’ve had a minute to sort through our photos.
Today I want to express gratitude for the embarrassment of riches I have
in terms of places I get to call ‘home.’
Because the second part of our trip was to the Sunny Detroit area,
which is where I grew up. About twenty people gathered at my parents’
home on what would have been my grandmother’s 93rd birthday. People
from Baby Kate, the youngest member of the family at 13 months, to the
oldest members of the family (none of whom look a day over 39 I swear)
were in attendance. My mom cooked some of my gram’s best loved recipes,
including her cheesecake, something called a blitz torte, and her famed
The whole Saturday party was a bit of a
whirlwind. Lots of people and food and a lot of work for my mom who
already had too much on her plate between my dad’s health issues and the closing of their art gallery (the
contents of which she has somehow fit into the house which is a ninja
level feat of organization). But it went well, and it was nice to be
with people who remember and miss my grandma.
Aside from the big party, the real event for me was just spending
time in my childhood home. I love to walk around my old neighborhood
and see what things have changed (lots of house additions and gardens)
and what things haven’t (the old section of sidewalk down the street
with paw prints in it). I always appreciate walking among trees that
seem like old acquaintances, and watching my own children play in the
same park where I spent every recess from kindergarten through sixth
grade. Hearing my kids clomping down the steps to the kitchen in the
morning the way I must have done, and eating at the same table off the
same plates is surprisingly moving to me. Being in my childhood home is
one giant reminder of ‘the more things change the more they stay the
same.’ That house is still home.
But the cottage is also home. It always felt like home, but now that
it’s legally ours, it is truly and officially our second home. So we
traveled from Detroit (which I think of as ‘back home’) to the cottage
(which is our ‘vacation home’) back to Milwaukee (which is simply
‘home’). So in a way we were gone for two weeks without ever being away
from home. That’s peculiar and comforting all at once somehow.
I don’t know what it’s like to function without a place to call
home. I am fortunate, because I need that sense of place to accomplish
anything. I need to feel grounded and safe or I become agitated and
fearful. I remember when Ian and I broke off from the rest of my family
during a trip in Italy to visit Cremona. It’s the city where
Stradivari lived and worked and it is still filled with violin shops.
(It’s also the place for which Mona
is named.) When we arrived in Cremona it was sunset, we didn’t know
where we would stay, and I was anxious. Everything looked dirty and
sketchy as we walked from the train station looking for a hotel. After
we found a place to sleep and drop off our bags–a temporary home–we
headed back out into the streets to explore the city and find some
dinner. It was like seeing Cremona with new eyes because I noticed for
the first time it was full of fine shops, like a Rolex store. But when I
didn’t know where I was going to sleep I didn’t like the look of any of
I think the stress of actual homelessness would be damaging in ways I
can’t even imagine. When I read about teens forced to live on the
streets, or people whose homes are destroyed in a disaster, or refugees
in exile, my heart breaks for them. Everyone should have at least one
place to call home. I have three, which seems beyond decadent. As for
my husband, he says wherever I am is his home.
I think a lot about what home is to my children. I want them to have
that sense of place where they are loved and safe; where they have a
foundation they can take for granted so they are free to be creative in
ways they might not be if they were searching for things that are
currently a given. My kids are at a stage where they love their home so
much they insist they will never leave. When I say things about ‘one
day when you grow up and move on’ they all get very upset and insist
they want to live with me forever. They want to raise their own kids
here. That’s actually fine with me, but I tell them if they change
their minds it won’t hurt my feelings. It’s okay to build a new home.
They can always come back and visit this one. Or the cottage. They
have many homes. (And I’m glad.)
And now, for the worst segue ever, photos! Among the things that
changed yet stayed the same was the community pool six blocks from my
old house. They remodeled it, added cool new fancy wading pool things
that pour water on people different ways, and made the changing rooms
and snack area much nicer than when I was a kid. But there is still the
dreaded ‘Adult Swim’ for the last ten minutes of every hour where all
the kids must leave the pool just long enough for their suits to dry out
and make adjusting to the water annoying all over again. However, my
brother and I got to enjoy being adults in that pool for the first time
in our lives, taunting our poor children waiting on the edge while we
swam back and forth with no one in our way. That was awesome.
I also came downstairs one day to find my four-year-old son playing
Scrabble with my dad. Quinn understandably needed a little help and
they did not keep score, but the whole thing was adorable. Quinn reads
at about a first grade level, so he’ll be beating his grandpa at a real
game soon enough.
What a problem
to have–too many places where we are happy and want to be. Life is
sweet in any of our homes.