I wake up to the smell of bacon frying. I walk into the kitchen to see the most beautiful view of Lake Jordan. I have stayed up way too late visiting with friends. Maybe we were sitting around that familiar dining room table playing a game, or maybe we were just lounging on the comfortable sectional sofa. Whatever it was, it felt easy and it felt good. With keeping such late hours, I could probably sleep in a little longer, but I just can't resist sitting on the barstool and talking with Anita as she fries the bacon. This is the Barretts' home, and my heart calls it home.
I wake up to the sound of a crazy bird fighting with itself in the glass window. Here, I can sleep in later than normal. I am not sure why, but my biological alarm clock doesn't go off when I am here. I finally wake up around 8:00, which is late for me. I walk to the house next door. Charles made a fresh pot of coffee before going to work. I pour a cup and curl up on the couch as Mary Charles and I enjoy the morning on the lake. I catch her up on my life, and she catches me up on hers. I hear about all the tales and adventures of her life with her children and grandchildren. I always tell her that when I grow up, I want to be her! Charles puts in a long day at work and makes it home around noon! Later in the afternoon, we may go out for a boat ride. We usually then cram around their kitchen table for a wonderful meal. There are lots of other places to eat, but it just feels better to squeeze tight and all eat together. I watch Anna and Charles fight over the fried okra. I laugh. I feel good. This is the Agertons' home, and my heart calls it home.
Speaking of fried okra, in the summertime when the days are long, Bobbie will often call and say, "Ya'll come over, and I'll fry up some okra." I walk in her house without knocking. She is that kind of friend. Ellie, her dachshund comes running up. I always bend down and hold her away from me for a few seconds because she usually tinkles from the excitement of a visitor! After cleaning up behind her, I pick her up. She just nuzzles my neck and tries to get as close to me as she can. The table in the family room always has some kind of really cool arts and crafts project that Bobbie is right in the midst of. I hear Bobbie yell, "Ya'll come on in." Jessie is either working on the project or on the computer. I usually start cleaning up the kitchen as Bobbie cooks. She cooks. I clean. We have this thing figured out! (We have decided that the days when everybody lived with Grandma might not have been such bad days.) In a while, Steve will come strolling in from his golf or fishing outing. He and Anna will banter back and forth about one thing or another. (She told him one time that her died blonde streak in her black hair was a birthmark. He believed it for weeks!) There is not much okra left when we finally sit down to eat. We have all walked by and grazed while Bobbie was cooking it, and there are only a few pieces left now. Everyone watches each other like a hawk to make sure they are not getting more than their rightful share of the small amount left! This is the Macks' home, and my heart calls it home.
In the afternoons when I just feel stressed and want to get away for a little while, I walk down to the neighbor's house. Pig, the dog, greets me at the door. He loves to greet company. I walk on in, and David usually meets me first. "Hey there, darlin. Come on in." JoJo is busy running around doing something. She never sits. "What can I get you to drink?" Do not plan on going to JoJo's house without having something to eat and drink! We sit around and chat about life and what is going on. We have such a great neighborhood. JoJo knows everyone, and she keeps us all up to date if there is something we need to know about one of the neighbors. Her son and daughter-in-law usually come in for dinner. They may even bring their dogs, and sometimes I will have LuLu. So this means there are four dogs running around the house: two big ones and two small ones. The small ones cause much more of a ruckus than the big ones! This is the Turnages' home, and my heart calls it home.
It is 7:15 on a weekday morning. I unlock the door to my classroom and go inside. I plan on getting some things done, but it usually doesn't happen. The majority of the time, there are three or four students gathered around my desk. I am hearing about the latest funny outing, last night's fight with a boyfriend, or sometimes it is earth shattering news that will forever change the students' lives. These are good moments of being able to listen to and mentor these young lives as they face the ups and downs that life brings them. This is Central, and my heart calls it home.
Here is one for my girls. They are sitting on a familiar campsite. Ross is harassing Anna. She is getting so mad. Robyn is over there giggling at them, and Lily is ignoring them. They have their beds in the camper picked out. As the matter of fact, when the new camper was purchased, they went over first thing to lay claim to their spots. Ross has his Taj Mahal of tents set up. There are three rooms in the tent. Two are for sleeping, and the big one in the middle is for entertaining. The tent is air conditioned. Don't ask questions; you just have to know Ross to understand. The middle room is decked out with a television, a wii, and a dvd player. There is a continuous "Just Dance" competition going on in the tent. Mrs. Leigh brought lots of home baked goodies that are quickly disappearing as everyone sits around the campfire. This is the Shirers' camper, and my girls' hearts call it home.
And then there is Echo. I am the baby of the family. When I go back, it is easy to slip back into that mode. I can walk into the home that I grew up in and say, "I'm starving." At that moment, I am not a forty-two-year-old with two children, a job, and all the responsibilities of life. I am my mother's child, and she is going to take care of me. "What can I fix you, babe?" Several of the nieces and nephews will be in and out throughout my trip. I love being their aunt. We will all go and sit around my sister's pool as we watch the kids play. They are getting so big. Some are already adults. These days are slipping away from us all too quickly. So, for now, I relish these moments with my siblings as we watch the children enjoying the last few years of childhood. This is where I grew up, and my heart calls it home.
When I started this Unplanned Journey, something changed about the house that I live in. I love this house. It is so much fun to entertain here, and it has brought us much joy through the three short years that we have lived here. But when our family changed, something changed about my feelings for this house. It is hard to explain. What I have come to realize over time is that it is just a house.
According to the Urban Dictionary, the saying "Home is where the heart is" is something that you say which means that your true home is with the person or in the place that one loves most. There you have it. Home for me is being with my friends who love me and have cared for me throughout this journey. I have named a few of the places, but this list is certainly not exhaustive. There are so many people who have made their family home for us. I thank God for each and every one of them. They have made the path of the journey so much easier to travel. I don't think we could have made it without them.