The times they are a changing.
I bet every generation has uttered these words or something similar as the world before them advances and changes right before their eyes. Bob Dylan even had a hit song by this very name. Every parent, at some point, realizes the world in which their children grow up will be (or more likely already is) vastly different than their own. All of us know this is the normal progression of human history, but we still find time to complain the “good ‘ol days” are long gone.
I think I was fortunate in some aspects of my upbringing. The house to which my mom and dad brought me home from the hospital was the same house in which I had my 10th birthday party. In fact nearly all of the major milestones of my life happened around Winding Waters Lane…..It’s where I parked my first car (an ’84 Chevy Cavalier, mind you); and the same house which hosted my graduation open house and Amy and my wedding shower. In fact, it wasn’t until just a few years ago my parents finally decided to downsize and sold the old homestead. That house, on Christiana Creek, was an important and consistent part of my life for 25+ years. It was home.
Home, though, isn’t just a house. It’s the people with which you share life. You see, I also grew up with predictable family functions – like the Christmas Eve gathering at my Clifton grandparents, and the New Years day shindig on the Carlson side. I knew where my aunts and uncles lived and actually grew up spending time with my cousins. Lots of time. I remember our family celebrating big days together, shedding lots of tears on the hard days-and we had some, and all in all sharing life together. I spent as much time at my grandparents homes as I did my own, especially in the summer. And who could forget how good my sister was at cheating at Old Maid (OK, maybe that was me!) on long road trips with my mom and grandparents. My life, for the most part, was stable, comfortable, consistent, and secure. I always knew my parents were there, my sister was just across the hall and if I was scared, on a good night, I could sneak into her bed past my dad in the living room, until he wised up to my sneakyness.
I’ll never forget the first time I went to college. Those first few months are the hardest and I was REALLY homesick by the time Fall Break rolled around. I’m pretty sure I made it from Springfield, MO to Elkhart, IN in around 8 hours; 600 miles in 8 hours. I knew everything would be OK once I pulled into that long gravel driveway.
I guess I’m saying I always knew my way home.
Nowadays it’s not this way. Our lives are so convoluted and chaotic many people don’t know if they’re coming or going. Life is crazy, without consistency, and without the deep sense of family I experienced as a child. Generally speaking anyway. People are isolated, forced to deal with good and bad alone far too often. Amy and I have always tried, and often unsuccessfully, to give our children the same sense of home with which I grew up. Chloe has known only three houses in her life, which is far less than her momma had known at her age. Isaac has only known one. We have worked hard to shield ourselves from the craziness, over-scheduled, and indulgent lifestyles our society seems to portray as normal – and many line up to prove them right. Though I cannot say we have never ventured into those expectations, I can say we haven’t gotten stuck there either. But this has required NOT doing some things everyone else was doing (can you imagine actually saying “no”!?!?!?!). I hope our children will say they were allowed to be kids – to ride their bike, play with the neighbors, and have sleepovers. That they loved the impromptu slip ‘n slides, picnics on the hill, and spur of the moment trips to the park. That someday when they’re raising their own children, they will look with (mostly) fondness on their childhood; that it was safe, and pure, and lovely. And when they think about it, they feel like they’ve come back home.
See home is more than a place. It’s more than a set of rooms set on a foundation. It’s more than a place to get your mail. Home is where your family gathers. Home is where you go when you need to celebrate or when you need to mourn. Home is where you go when you’re lonely, when you’re hurting, when you need to see familiar people or get a lick from the family dog. Home is where the proverbial heart is. Truly.
My biological children, and even Amy and I, have been saying the old “I want to go home” complaint. I think, while we love Poland, we long to be in that place where our family is (I use that term, not to indicate blood relations, but those with whom one does life), to be around our things, to drive the tractor, play with Char Char (our dog), and even just be able to go to Meijer for a couple of hours. We want to go home.
But then I think about our Polish kiddos. Have they ever had any of this? Where is home to them? What brings those feelings of familiarity and hope and that everything is going to be OK? Who celebrated good days with them and mourned the bad ones? We want to go home, but they’ve never really had a home to which to go! The home they came into from the hospital? That wasn’t a good place. Two separate foster homes in two years. While stable, they refer to their caregivers as “aunt” and “uncle”. This is not home, at least to me.
I don’t feel guilty over how we feel versus how they may feel. I know they’re excited to come to our home and be in our family. I’ve asked each of them numerous times. They are looking forward to the bunkbeds we have for them. They’re pumped about our giant yard. They’re even looking forward to being a part of our church. And of course they’re very excited to go to Disney World very soon!
But I know they have no idea the culture shock they’re about to experience. I know they have not thought about the soon to be necessity of learning a new language, just to survive. I know they have not quantified the possibility they may never again return to Poland, and even if they do, they are not likely to drive with fondness around their old stomping grounds in the same way I do Elkhart whenever I visit. I know the hill we are about to climb together will be high, steep, and challenging.
But I also know they will be safe with us. Their little hearts will all-the-way heal from whatever trauma they’ve experienced. Some scars may remain but healing will be total. I know they will experience the love of a very affectionate daddy and the patient kindness of an amazing mommy. I know they will sleep warm in the winter and eat popsicles in the summer to cool down. I know they will have Christmas sleepovers at Nana’s house, eating far too many cookies while I polish off the box of Mojos from Martin’s. I know they will soon know the love of a family of believers, what it’s like to truly have friends who will walk with you, and teachers who will pray for you every day of your life. I know they’re about to experience what’s it like to have a home…..
And I know, after this, they’ll always be able to find their way back.