last month we moved from texas to tennessee. one year prior we had moved from washington to texas. two years before that we called the road our home. and up until then, california was the place where our roots had been firmly planted.
there have been many reasons for the moves… work, adventure, healing. but really, at the heart of it all i believe we have been looking for home.
i lived the first twelve years of my life in the same house in a suburb of los angeles. i had a paper route, filling my bike with papers at 5am on saturdays and knew the name of every family member in every house on the block. i walked home from school everyday. i felt safe. known.
every december my dad and i would walk to the closest park, he would climb up into the tallest branches of the trees and knock down clumps of mistletoe for me to catch below. we would break them into pieces and make little bundles with pretty string for me to sell door to door for a dollar at christmastime. it made me happy.
but then my parents got divorced. things were ugly. my mom and i had to leave that house in a hurry and we moved into an apartment across town. inside of me it felt like i was escaping a fire in slow motion. i knew the safest thing to do was to leave, but as i pressed my face to the glass i could almost see the memories of my childhood turning black. in the twenty four years since, i have been back to that house only a few times. i went alone about five years ago and drove slowly past the house, wondering if anyone looking on in the neighborhood may catch a glimpse of the girl who's heart was formed right there on that corner lot. the apricot tree in the yard with branches once heavy with fruit that squished sticky between my toes as i ran through the grass was no longer there. and i saw a new family moving about through the front window.
i remembered laying in my backyard, looking up, dreaming of my future. my worries were small. my trust was big. my hope was bigger. i've stretched out in the grasses of many "homes" since with trust so small and worries so large that i wasn't sure the earth could hold me. clinging to half burned up memories. wishing to go back to before the fire.
i'm a mother now. sometimes it seems like a dream. because i'm most sure i am still that girl in the grass looking up. and i am. except for now i am a lot more tired and my hair is beginning to turn from brown to gray. and now, i have five little ones looking on. which makes it seem so much heavier and lighter all at once.
i believe i've spent these years since becoming a mother scrambling to find a safe place for my children reminiscent of that one i faintly remember having. but i no longer need to search. the fire that i was convinced had destroyed everything, past and future, had not consumed me. i have a home. and it is them.
i know my children are happy. they feel safe. and donny and i, we are their safe place. the soft grass in which to lay their heads and dream.
last week brandon and i went on a little date to our new local grocery store. it is humble and sweet and i'm most sure everyone we walked by nodded kindly and said hello. we gathered a few items, headed to the casher to check out and as i loaded up our groceries on the counter, i saw it... the mistletoe. it was packaged up in little bundles with pretty string for christmastime. brandon was chattering on and on but all i could hear was my dad's voice calling down from the top of the tree, "sweetheart, you ready to catch it?!" and i stood motionless in the grocery aisle. tears began falling down my cheeks. each one healing the broken earth of my childhood. i have a lot of bad memories. but this one, it is so good.
i paid the checker, gathered our groceries and walked hand in hand with my son to the car. i told him all about that old christmas tradition from when i was a girl and as we pulled into our dirt driveway toward our new little white house with the green shutters beside the creek he said excitedly, "mommy, we should do it here! you and me, let's hunt for mistletoe in our woods!" and i smiled. and he smiled.
beauty from the ashes.
these photographs are from our travels over the past few months across the country; we saw 39 states this year as a family. because we travel half the year for photography, finding a haven for our family as a place to rest and grow has been a hope we have kept close to our hearts. while traveling through tennessee in september we fell in love with a sweet little house on a few acres with a creek running through and were offered a couldn't-pass-up lease to own opportunity. it is a wonderfully central place for our work, about forty minutes north of nashville. we hope to be here for a very long while. you can see the children playing on the land of our new home in the photos at the very end of this post.