We kept driving, absorbing the familiarity of our beloved North Carolina. Tyler and his girlfriend, Deaven, were waiting at the house for us. We hadn’t met her yet, and I wanted her to be comfortable with us. I remember thinking she must be nervous, and we were about to come in like a few rusty wrecking balls with all our drama, emotions, and creatures. They live about an hour away, so they planned to stay the night and we were so looking forward to spending time with them, especially since we hadn’t seen Tyler in over a year.
Months before our trip, we had our first Christmas away from each other. We put Tyler on the big screen TV in the living room and connected with him via Zoom. I would internally cringe each time there was a glitch, or Tyler’s face froze, and felt myself many times wanting to throw something heavy and sharp at the TV, hating not being with him. We made the best of it, but as I continued driving toward our new home, I fantasized about our next Christmas, one where we would all be together.
Uncle Lee’s face was painted with worry. He spent the day at our house, helping us get it ready to leave for the new owners. He even left halfway through to go to an appointment and came back to help some more.
“Remember, if you see anyone that looks shady, just leave. And don’t stop at any rest areas where you don’t feel comfortable. You may want to carry a gun of some sort, even a small one just in case. Don’t trust anyone and don’t be afraid to tell them you’re Gold Star.” He was sad to see us leave, and we were sad to leave him.
“Put the collars on the dogs,” I told Baylee. I heard the jingle of their name tags as he grabbed them off the hook on the wall, the click of the plastic collar clasps, and the dancing tick tick tick of the dogs’ nails on the floor in the front room as they anticipated our ride.
I went down to the basement to open the utility room doors and make sure the outside door was closed. I blew out the apple candle, watched the blackish smoke dance its way to the wood ceiling, and added a few large logs to the wood stove. I walked to the basement stairs and looked around one last time to be sure it was satisfactory for a showing.
I woke up this morning and felt the cool air come through the window into my bedroom, a nice break from the heavy thickness that has been lingering around town lately. I breathed it in and allowed it to turn into the feelings of autumn. My eyes remained closed as it speared its way through my mind with images of pumpkins and sweaters, until it found my basket of reasoning right next to my closet of rationale. At that, my eyes snapped open and panic set in. Again. Still.
These next few months will be quite full. I am merely expelling my growing inner concern and simple nervousness about wanting it all to fall into place. I’d love to sleep at night.
(Wow this feels good.)
I don’t hate it in Massachusetts. We simply don’t fit in and that’s OK. So, we’re off to North Carolina, where we belong. Where my Tyler is. Home.
I own a house in Southampton, MA. It’s a gorgeous 1800’s farmhouse that needs love. It will need to be cleaned and sold and I don’t see how that will even work with us living here. Have you met us? Have you met David? He’s loud.
Also, as I look at the place from a different perspective like from a mother of a darling little lacy girl, or the cleanest queen of Pinterest, I worry. I begin to notice, more, the hand prints on the ceiling from when Baylee finally could touch it with a spry jump. He keeps testing that theory, and so do the others (maybe me, too). Also, apparently when one walks up or down the stairs, the white walls are irresistible to the smear. If you have boys, you know what smear is.
I also see the gobs of dog hair that were missed by Max’s daily big-brooming. There are the most charming slants here or there in the house, a marble’s delight, possibly from being here for about 150 years. Also, our forsythia bush is overgrown because in the winter “the animals in there will be cold” and in the summer “but what if they have babies in there” so now it’s a giant mass of green waving vegetation. I realize this will be quite the job.
I love this house and its quirky angles and very wild wildlife. It’s eccentric with its whimsical creaking doors and out-of-place scent of lilac in the winter. I listen at night to the packs of coyotes traveling along the game trail, and I will miss locking eyes with a bear or young deer while I hang towels on the line. But, it’s time, and we need to work.
Sammy is going to finish his degree in a hybrid environment as an environmental science major. I am overwhelmed with pride for this kid, and I know he can push through it, all while he maintains his position as my sweet listener.
Max will enter into his sophomore year of college which will be remote and is also learning to drive, and (oh yeah) he still has to decide where he wants to go next semester in NC.
Baylee, the youngest who just turned fourteen will be learning remotely if it’s allowed. Otherwise, we will find the right program for him to enter into homeschooling.
I will also enter into my last semester at Westfield State, and have tacked an internship on to that. During that time I will also be looking for a job. A job. I’ve stayed home with the boys all these years, so, yikes to the second power.
Why not wait until next spring? Because we already did that once and here we are. We are ready now and we want to leave as soon as we can. Baylee will be schooling from home so that part won’t matter. I am hoping to work remotely, and Sammy has that option as well.
Palms sweating again.
I dip deeply into my brain’s little knock-off purse with sequined hunter holly leaves and shiny red berries. In it are what Christmas could look like if we pull this all off. I go there when I need some supplemental energy. It tastes like peppermint and smells like a deep green Frasier fir that’s littered with tinsel and Popsicle sticks with dried Elmer’s. Roger’s village will be up no matter where we are, in a camper or cabin, on a mantel or the floor. I keep those hopes tucked away in the sequined purse because they can’t roam freely. It’s mine to look at when I allow myself to. My own little syrupy pill that helps me sleep.
I don’t care what the house we’re in looks like. We may rent until this place sells or buy something cheap in the mountains that we will live in temporarily. All we need is a place that has no cockroaches, no neighbors or ones who love roosters, and room enough for each of us to have our own little space.
I see us wearing brand new pajamas from Old Navy with prints like snowflakes or Superman. We will feast on something with white gravy or chocolate sauce, and soak in our brandnewness. I almost can’t handle that day already, but it’s all I want. It’s what we need.