I went home recently to my parents house in Texas, not the house I grew up in, that would be a bunch of places all across the seas and back again, but to the hearts I know and love.
This red brick home with candles in the windowsills, a wide smiling porch set behind a pond and familiar faces is a place I feel loved, challenged and welcomed in.
When I arrive at the house, I can count on full pitchers of fresh-brewed iced tea side-by-side in the refrigerator with lemonade so we can make Arnold Palmers to our order and delight. The freezer is stocked with ice cream, usually our favorite Blue Bell, but this time another brand. My family are watchmen for the return of those happy Brenham cows. I do love a bit of late night "Moolineum" myself. The only thing better is coffee ice cream or a scoop of each.
When I head home, I think what I'm really looking for is true heart and smiles in those familiar faces I love. I search the faces at the airport security gate for my Daddy. I know he'll be right there when we come through the boundary. When we get near the house, I watch for deer and lean forward looking for the crepe myrtles at their front gate and lighted flagpole by the pond. I anticipate that first tortilla chip loaded with Pops' famous homemade pico de gallo. My eyes are looking to rest on sights I know by heart. Yet each time I go, it looks like I bring change in my suitcase; to my folks (older, saltier, wiser), to the kids (taller, more themselves, still growing), even to myself (wider, quieter, more gray).
Families, I think, are like light, new every morning and slightly shifting all throughout the day.
I went home with half of our kids and still, by the time my brother and sister arrived with their families, we were fourteen strong and wild. I will tell you we are a mess of wet towels, coffee mugs, red solo cups marked with Sharpie, shoes with many stories, laughter and opinions.
This was KinFolk Festival 2016 with seven of our ten cousins ages 14-24. It settled around me this trip that not only are we through the season of bottles, naps and diapers, but well into driving, college life and dating. Our own children are getting married and having grand babies, so we are circling back around to those bottles, naps and diapers. Still some of the fun is the same. These seven made quick for the water, fishing in the pond, catching frogs, playing pool volleyball and flipping off the back of Gee's flaming golf cart parked precariously close to the bank of the pond.
Of course, we expected heat and humidity. This is Texas at the height of summertime. But this was sweltering triple digit heat that meets you hot at the threshold before you step out of the door. Nothing that an ultra Slip'n Slide can't cure. Just add two tarps and a full bottle of Spring Bouquet scented dish soap and you'll slide clear out of the yard into the neighbors pasture, laughter in the bubbles.
You must know by now that going home is chaos and glory, full of old patterns, new ideas and real hearts. Treading gently is wisdom. Home is stitching together scraps, pieces of our many familiar flaws, my own among the best. You'll need humble cotton thread called mercy, a bit of listening and a forgiving heart. A quilt that size is heavy in the folds, but the best covers you'll ever rest under as long as you have air conditioning and a ceiling fan overhead. I could have told you that as a child, yet I felt I learned it only last night.
At night after dinner, the kids ate ice cream in big white bowls while Mama and I read design magazines. They usually sidled up behind Pops at the gate-leg puzzle table and started sorting colors and fitting pieces. I found sweetness on the fringes of conversations and love when younger cousins laid curious palms on Baby Girl's quiet home to feel her sugar kick.
Home is a shelter from the fray and a sweet place to step out of any weather. Coming back home helps me recognize time's sneaky hands. The audacity of her hands ticking over my face! Minutes are slight things slipping by while you sleep and boldly before your open eyes all day long. My Mama sat beside me at an early dinner one night, just as the light slanted through the shutters and blurted out, "Terri, your hair's gone gray!". I wish that was news. She does say what pops into her head. Bless her heart.
Another thing about home, it is a place to try and work things out together. There was talk of new jobs in new towns, buying land smartly, empty nest adventures, typical high school senioritis, getting ready for college and how to really talk to girls. I wish you had been there for that one.
We tackled a few challenges too. My Mama had just gotten out of the hospital, the air-conditioning went out upstairs, a broken toilet made life interesting and we took one cousin to urgent care.
I am back home with my own family now and praying we are growing the same rooted, sheltering tree. Even though we are not all still under the same roof and new families are being built in circles around us, we are still home to each other. Our own family is nine and waiting on Baby Girl to make an even ten. Home is about to widen.
I miss my Texas roots, I do, but there is a honeycomb sweetness to being back under my own downy covers in our corner of the country near the sea. Home is both my place and my people. Home is who I came from and who comes from me.
By the time you read this, Blue Bell should be back on the shelves and better than ever. I'm planning a big bowl next time I'm home in Texas.