Tag Archives: new york city

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

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bronte“…this cup of yours tastes holy, but a brush with the devil can clear your mind and strengthen your spine.”

We’re moving to Sydney.

I remember my first episode with leaving home: going to college in Birmingham, ninety miles away, at once too far and not far enough. I remember visiting with my family and knowing that when I came back, to move in, they would leave me and this place would be my new home. It felt wrong and right at the same time. I remember emerging from the Lincoln Tunnel in a U-Haul with my mom, driving down side streets in the city that had been a place to visit but now held my apartment on 92nd and First, my new home. It felt foreign and familiar at the same time. And last week, The Husband and I walked out of the airport, climbed into a taxi, and drove into Sydney, half a world away and fourteen hours ahead, as our boys slept a day behind us. We hurtled along expressways and through downtown, and though I had never been there I felt like I was somehow returning.

The more I know of grace, the more I think these extremes, flip sides, seeming contradictions are symbols that I am in its realm: grace, a paradox unto itself. I can take my shoes off–it’s all holy ground, and I don’t have to keep running.

The writing was on the wall for so long. I held its words inside my heart, turning them over in gratitude, with open-eyed wonder, one minute, and cursing them through tears the next. God called my bluff. “Change my heart,” I asked, “Or…another option? Tell The Husband this is wrong.” Not because Sydney is Siberia. Not because I’m afraid of seventy and sunny, of beaches and harbors. But because we’re here now. We’re home. And once again we’re called out of one home toward another. I’m tired.

But I’m not blind.

There was this: the colleagues of TH’s who came out of the woodwork, time after time, with kids, or friends with kids, who have challenges and gifts similar to The Kid’s. Phone calls with tips and plans and names and hope. “Go before us,” I had prayed, waiting to point and yell, “SEE? Not there! Not this way!” But grace was there the whole time. There was the woman on the flight with a boy two months younger than Little Brother, and when I did the thing I never do–went up and talked to her at baggage claim–she, in her bleary-eyed confusion and I in mine, spoke for a minute. “That’s that, I guess?” I thought, and then a tap on the back, a paper with an email address, an immediate response to the note I sent, and guess who lives two blocks from the house we found, who pointed me to the moms’ and expat groups, who pulled me into community? There was the fellow mom who took me around our new neighborhood, who sat with me over coffee they call flat whites (the same language and a new one), and the next day my uncle emailed: “Did you go to lunch with someone from Atlanta yesterday? Her dad and I went to college together.” All these connections, this going before us, these open doors.

And closed ones. The school we visited, the woman who met us with a hard stare, misgivings and misunderstanding, the “I don’t know this would be a fit for him,” the holding of my tears until the moment we left the gate. The knowing I will always have to fight for TK, tell his story in more than one sitting, and the sadness and jet lag catching up with me in a collapse onto the hotel bed, a wondering if it’s all wrong. Then, the emails from other connections about other schools, one of them half a mile from the house we picked. The house with our name on it, now.

Open and closed, wonderful and awful, certain and confusing, answers and…waiting. I can’t think about it without crying at the way grace won’t stop showing up, will never stop looking out for me. For us.

TH and I spent a morning (between wanting to punch school registrars in the face) exploring the neighborhood I had been taken around the day before. We walked down streets and into shops, sat and drank tea and read, talked. Smelled bakeries and bookstores, foreign and familiar at the same time, pieces of home everywhere, even here. Of course here. I wondered aloud if everyone was really as nice as they seemed to be. “I need edge,” I told him. I ached for friends back home, the ones I commiserate with, trade barbed jokes with, navigate anxiety and depression with. You know, the fun stuff. So many beginnings, and I want to be in the thick of it–the part where we know and are known, where the underside is visible and no one runs away. Yet time will not be unspooled according to my clock, so we wait. I wait, where there is both light and darkness.

I watched some of Sex and the City the other day, waiting for the part when Carrie looks in the Mexican mirror without makeup. It’s brutal. I love it. This is where I reside, in between jokes, in the gritty realness of how hard it can be. That is home. Will I find other bare-faced realists, fellow travelers on this path, in my new home? Anne Lamott wrote, “My mind remains a bad neighborhood that I try not to go into alone.” Last night LB kept waking up and I sat beside his crib, his finger grasping mine as I alternately stroked his head and begged him to go the fuck to sleep. “My mind goes to scary places at night,” I told one of my here-home fellow travelers this morning, and she walked beside me with her words: “Mine too.” We showed our Mexican mirrors to each other and didn’t run away, and I cried at the fourteen hours that will soon separate us and all the distance that never could, the grace in this changing of address and in the fact that I am never, ever left alone in that bad neighborhood by myself, because of the grace that always shows up, coming to a stop right where I am and holding me in its arms, covering me in a blanket to take me where I really live: in old homes, and new. Foreign and familiar. Wrong and right. In the song we sang again this week: “Even my darkness is light to you.” In the communion wafer, pressed so hard into my hand that it broke–which is the point, isn’t it? Isn’t it: this overwhelming weight of grace and the glory of being shattered and saved by its rays.

The Road

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We returned from “vacation” earlier this week. And I use the term “vacation” loosely as it was clearly a trip.


Re-entry has been a little bit of everything. There’s the good: watching The Kid’s anxiety recede and his comfort level skyrocket as he happily inserts himself between his trucks. There’s the bad: a carpenter ant-led attempt to take over our bathroom. And there’s the ugly: an hours-long period at night reminiscent of the newborn weeks, during which Little Brother awakens from a sound sleep to scream his protests at jet lag, followed by TK’s entrance into our room at around 4 am to grab one of us and pull that parent into bed with him. (Something I swore I’d never do, naturally. Along with a thousand other plans I’m being challenged out of. Hello, reality–nice to meet you. Pass the salt, for I will now eat all my words.)

We’re tired. We’re behind: on sleep, time, work, getting my hacked website permanently fixed, picking up groceries. We’re testy. I think a man at Sprouts yesterday followed me around the store to make sure I wouldn’t hurt my yelling kids. (I ran over him in the parking lot. Or maybe that was just a dream.)

The road home isn’t always easy. Or flat.


And neither is vacation. Because it’s no longer the Bachelor-esque dates of yesteryear: sunset dinners on the beach, kayaking through bioluminescent waters, planting a drink flag in the sand. Now “dinner” is a hurried feeding around a table grimy with fingerprints; activities include laughing at the idea of kayaking because, you know, our kids, and also, that’s for people who get sleep; beach play is rushing to pluck a hat from the sand to cover a baby’s head. It’s iPads on the plane and walking up the aisle with the baby in the Bjorn and getting scolded by a flight attendant and punching her in the face (or maybe that was just a dream). It’s handing them off to each other and “did you forget that toy?” accusations and grocery trips in the morning just to keep them busy. It’s ups and downs and, sometimes, the feeling of circling a drain more than getting rejuvenated.

Recreation is a funny word, isn’t it? Re-creation. I always associated it with fun; but in my experience, being re-created? Being redeemed? Is more often painful before it feels healing; it starts with destruction before leading to glory. It’s only when I’ve planted my feet firmly in the terra firma of home (and adjusted to the time change) that I have the hindsight–the sight, period–to see the beauty in being recreated. I’m not there yet for this trip, blisters still healing from the run and LB confusing his days and nights and TK screeching his frustrations. TH rushing off in the morning because we all slept late and working on my website into the night and oh yeah, our anniversary is coming up and maybe instead of a helicopter ride over New York City we’ll just…sleep it off at a hotel? In separate rooms?

I go back to the half-marathon in my mind often, as I do with all my perceived failures, and I’ve come to realize one of the “problems” I faced: that of the conditions being too optimal. The beautiful scenery, the flat roads…they lulled me into a sense this would be easy. They left too much room for me to retreat inside my mind–a scary place even in good conditions, and downright terrifying otherwise–and what should have been easy became complicated; what should have been beautiful became difficult.

Sometimes optimal is overrated. Sometimes perfect is nonexistent.

But the good news there is that it creates an opening where sometimes complicated and difficult turn out to be their own opposites, too.

There are moments on the trip, oases in the desert, that make it feel more like a vacation…or at least help you remember that vacations haven’t gone extinct, they’re just different for now. There are the two hours you get away to watch a movie as a couple and you know that marriage can be work but that dating? Was sure as hell no vacation either. There’s the moment in the park with a friend you’re just now getting around to meeting, and she tells you her story, the challenges her own child faced, and if ever Jesus was hugging you, it’s in this moment, in this discussion of the Psalms and how they were also a little bit of everything, how David was such a complainer that he reminds me of someone I know (hello, mirror) and that grace doesn’t pick just nice guys with perfect resumes but lands on those of us who are a little bit of everything.

There’s the moment in the run when the endorphins kick in and you realize you probably aren’t going to die and you may even run again. One day. There’s the moment when he grabs your hand and leads you to his bed and you’re exhausted but he looks you square in the eye and squeezes into the crook between your head and chest and it’s heaven at 4 am. And there’s the moment at the airport, when we’re waiting for TH, and I’m the mom with one kid strapped to her chest and the other attached to her hand, but I’m not the one (this time) who’s Angry Mom, yelling at her kids to straighten up, and I’m not the wife of the one twisting off his wedding band now that he’s in a different area code, but the one crazily singing an improvised song about being off the plane and being home and I feel a tug on my hand and it’s TK, doing a dance of joy, his knees bending in rhythm with my song, right there at the return gate, signing “more” so I’ll keep singing.

We head to baggage claim and climb into the car, driving through the darkness to a house where we’ll all sleep, two boys in two rooms side by side and TH and I in one bed, no matter what kind of day it’s been. And there’s the moment, and all the ones after it, that are a little bit of everything, but it’s our everything. And that’s what makes it home.