Monday, September 20, 2010

H is for Homesick

It's true. I'm 48 years old and I'm homesick.

I know it seems weird. And the home I'm longing for is the hometown of my childhood, Galena, Illinois.

It's probably more about feeling nostalgic than it is about being homesick. But as we were driving home from Galena yesterday, having joined friends and family for Kay's memorial service, the 17 hours spent in town wasn't enough. It was the first time that I got to be with most of my best pals from high school in a long time. I missed my class reunion this year and most of these guys were the class ahead of me anyway. And truly, we only had about two hours. It was Phil's mother who died, at the age of 97. We got to celebrate a long, gracious, and well-lived life lived by a remarkable woman. Larry's folks have already passed. I think Marv's have, too.

Yes, my closest friends were boys now all men; some married, some divorced, some with kids, some without. These were the boys of my teenage years who were the band and chorus geeks, the skiers (snow and water), the skateboard and Frisbee gang, and yes - the partiers.

I was a latecomer to the gang. We were the Chicago people who moved to this sleepy yet quirky little town in 1970. I started hanging out with these guys in high school and I essentially had to fend for myself. It was keep up or be left behind. I had to learn to water ski living by the three-tries-and-you're-up, or you're back in the boat rule. On the slopes of Chestnut Mountain, if you didn't make it too the bottom with everyone else, you had a cold and lonely ride back to the top. They tolerated me and I worked hard to keep up and be included. I still ski - on snow and water. Well, at least I try on an annual basis!

But this was also the group that truly took care of one another. We've weathered tragic deaths of friends, affairs, spats, weddings, disputes. Some of us went away to school, some didn't. Some went back home to raise families, others moved away. I don't think there's anything truly remarkable about us. Yet the longer I live far away, the more I long to be in touch.

Perhaps it has something to do with burying our parents. My dad who still lives in Galena turned 70 last summer and seems to be healthy and poised to live 30 more years. My mother, who hasn't lived in Galena since 1981, isn't so healthy.

Some of it is simply that Galena is truly a charming town. I love the setting, I love the people, I love the river.

Many things about my current home are similar. I love the setting, I love the people, I love the river.

I remember having this sort of feeling a few years ago after my uncle died. I finally told my husband that I needed to spend some time at home with my dad. I went home for a weekend and just tagged around, mostly with my father. I felt better, reassured of his presence and his place in the world. This time the home sickness took me by surprise and I simply don't have the time.

Oh, and I miss my little sister, too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

D is for Dreams

Have you ever had a dream that woke you up in the middle of the night? Ever had a night mare that caused you to whimper and cry in your sleep? Ever been a sleeptalker? A sleepwalker?

I've done it all.

This isn't a point that is worth bragging about. In fact, if you're a person diagnosed with sleep disorders, some of this stuff is truly disconcerting.

My parents said I had night terrors as a child. Both of my boys had them, too. Arthur's were worse and more frequent than Joren's. Everyone in this family sleep talks. It can be highly entertaining. Arthur even FaceBooked his recent sleepy exchange with me from two mornings ago when he was going on about Styrofoam when I was trying to wake him up.

I've had some super strange episodes while sleeping. I once woke up walking in north St. Paul near Como Park as the sun was rising and hitched a ride home with someone taking his bloody dog to the emergency vet on Lexington. I started to become aware of my situation more fully as I was walking back down Summit Avenue's boulevard realizing that I was in my clothing and stocking feet, no shoes, making my way back to my dorm on the Macalester campus. My socks, stiffened with dirt and completely and rigidly formed to my feet, were evidence of how long my sleep-walk had been. I was pretty freaked out about that for several weeks.

I had a strange dream when my mother's father died. I had a sense of impending doom and even commented upon it to my friend Phil on the phone the preceding day. After having a disturbing sort of evening, from which I came home early from hanging out with friends, I discovered my mother and sister at home early, too.  All of us were feeling out of sorts as we went to bed earlier than usual. We all had strange dreams and fitful sleep only to learn the news in the morning that my grandfather had died in the night.

I was then haunted by my mother's second husband on the third night after his death. He managed to die on the day between Christmas and my mother's birthday. My sister and I were on a two day Christmas visit to our father's in Illinois with my kids and we had to abandon them to hot-foot it to Florida to comfort our mother. Alan, her dead husband, visited me in the wee hours of the night in ways that were hard to miss. I came out of my sleep (or whatever state I was in) screaming bloody murder and gasping for breath. That episode was a logistical and emotional nightmare.

This premonition and post-death visitation stuff truly isn't much fun.

So last night I dreamt that I was flying in to some location for work and was curious about the person who was assigned to collect me. As I walked along, carry-on in hand, I began to recognize a Colorado college campus at the foot of a ski resort. I noticed a man sitting on the lawn to my left who stood to greet me. After a silent hug, Phil turned and walked away without speaking a word. As I tried to follow him I became completely awake and couldn't fall back to sleep. After visiting the bathroom at 4:30 in the morning, I found my sleepless self highly irritated and wondering why Phil had woken me.

Today I received a message from a mutual friend that Phil's mother had died. Phil is a high school friend with whom I haven't had much contact at all over the past 10 years. We were close in high school and during our 20s and early 30s, but we've drifted apart and lost touch in recent years. So why the hell did he wake me up last night?

And here I am, at 3:22 am, afraid to go to sleep.

Go Figure.

Monday, September 6, 2010

C is for Camping

We just returned from our annual Labor Day Weekend outing; Camping with The Village. We are blessed with an extended family of friends who have for years ventured into the wilds of various Minnesota State Parks with us for Memorial Day and Labor Day weekend. (We did cross the river to a Wisconsin State Park last Memorial Day to accommodate some Illinois family members joining us with wee ones.)

Last Thursday afternoon several of us pulled into the primitive group site in Sakatah State Park, west of Faribault and not quite to Waterville. This particular site is situated near the boat ramp but far from the noise and light of the regular camping loops, as most group sites are. We have a beautiful lake view, a convenient place for putting canoes in and out, and easy access to the bicycle trail.

This weekend actually called for a smaller crowd than usual since we were missing the back-to-school collegiate crowd. My goddaughter Maria is the latest to abandon us for adventures in higher education. Dale and I also realized that this was the first time camping on Labor Day Weekend without either of our sons present in 18 years. Wow. They really do grow up!

It was a fantastic weekend with all of the predictable predicaments; cold weather, rain, hail, high winds, major mosquitoes, camp fire smoke in your face, stinky pit toilets, and a discourteous boater with a loud motor heading out for the Goose Hunting Early Opener at 4 am!

But we endure all of these challenges together in order to spend time cooking and eating and hiking and canoeing and biking and story-telling and laughing together. We play cards and ladder ball, dominoes and dice. We engage in coloring projects with the youngest and engage in shopping expeditions with the oldest, always in search of the latest camping gadget that we can't live without.

This time that we set aside twice each year is part of what anchors our friendships and sustains us through the busier times. Our pace of camping is cooperative and far slower than the pace of lives we live at home. We are all growing older, and we even have a regular granddaughter camping with us now. Our tents have increased in size to accommodate cots rather than sleeping pads or leaky air mattresses. Our kitchens and chuck boxes continue to undergo repairs, improvements and upgrades. We are learning more and more about the art of cast iron cooking with multiple dutch ovens.

I come home from these weekend retreats deeply thankful for my treasured friends. I may be a little bitten up from the winged critters sometimes characterized as the blood-sucking state bird, but I return rested, relaxed, and refreshed. My soul is at peace.

Thanks be to God.