As many of you know, I try to keep a fairly open mind when it comes to finding inspiration for the things I write about on this blog, even if what moves me comes from an unlikely place. Often the most unexpected enlightenment has come from my grandchildren, Nora and Jack. A month or so ago I arrived at their house in the morning to find them eagerly waiting to tell me something. “Freezie, Freezie, we have a new movie for us to watch. You are going to love it SO much!” Well. Who could possibly pass that up?? Certainly not me. The movie, as it turns out, was called The Rise of the Guardians and it is currently streaming on Netflix should you have some time this weekend to sit down and watch it. If you’re raising an eyebrow, and I know some of you are, just be patient with me. I promise you that there’s real substance here. The premise behind the movie is that the children of the world needed protection from the boogeyman, that universal bad guy responsible for our nightmares and the subsequent fear and sadness they bring, which prompted the Man in the Moon to assign a group of guardians to keep everyone safe. Are you still with me? These protectors consisted of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman, and the Tooth Fairy, obvious icons of childhood who fill the world with good things and happiness. Something goes wrong, and the boogeyman begins regaining his strength. A new guardian is needed to fortify the group, and so the Man in the Moon chooses Jack Frost, a young mischief maker who is going through a bit of an identity crisis. When the other guardians are mystified as to why Jack would be selected, Santa Claus (a.k.a North in this movie and the best character) asks Jack to tell him what is at his center, or what is the core of his being. Why would the Man in the Moon have chosen him? He must be someone special. Yet Jack is unable to answer the question because he simply has no idea.
May and June are prime wedding season months when many of us find ourselves attending ceremonies or celebrations on weekend nights where we gaze upon happy couples exchanging vows, and we listen to speeches that pay tribute to the idea of love. As many of you know, I am a hopeful romantic whose favorite subject to write about just happens to be love, and so I listen to the words people say at weddings to find inspiration or a brand new perspective. I could, in fact, easily become a wedding crasher in the spirit of Vince Vaughn or Owen Wilson attending not for the food, drink, and dates, but rather for the speeches, for their power and poignancy, and for the possibility of being moved to tears. We all have our weaknesses. Two Saturdays ago I stood in the beautiful backyard of my two friends, Mike and Kim, a couple to whom I owe such a debt of gratitude for extending much love and understanding to me at a time in my life when I needed it the most. It was their son, Evan, whose marriage was being celebrated, a person that I have known since he was the sweet pre-school friend of my youngest, who has grown into a man whose light and grace fill any space he occupies. When that space is shared with the woman he married, Giselle, those qualities multiply, magnify, and disperse until they are felt by everyone. I’ve never witnessed anything quite like it.
If you live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, you are well aware of the presence of an invasive little bug call the Lantern Fly. I remember when they arrived here a few years back. At first I thought they were sadly beautiful with all their spots and different combinations of red and black depending on the stage of their life cycle. The adults had gorgeous wings that turned them into fluttery paratroopers descending a bit erratically before hitting the ground with a roll and coming up on some fairly high legs. At first I wondered what the “squash to kill” order we received was all about. Could they really be that bad? I mean, if you ask me, cave crickets are a whole lot worse. Absolutely loathsome. But then I began reading about the damage lantern flies could cause to trees, vines, and crops that included things like oozing sap, wilting leaves, and even death if the infestation was major. Most insidious of all, lantern flies left a sugary substance behind called honeydew that encouraged the growth of a sooty black mold. As if all of their destructive potential wasn’t enough, their nuisance factor was also quickly climbing the charts. I had lunch one afternoon in West Chester Pa. two summers ago where these little creatures were utterly ubiquitous at the time. Needless to say, they rained down upon our table with a vengeance. I’d had enough. A bug killer I am not, but it seemed like it might be time to buy a good fly swatter.
Last week, I reprised some thoughts that I’d written early on about the feeling of home and the many places where we may experience it. I did this purposely because I wanted to lay a foundation for today’s ideas which revolve around the experience of helping my youngest work on his house before moving in last weekend. I was with him when he initially went to see the house and again later when the inspector came to deliver his well-earned, dire report. There were a few issues, as there always are, but I agreed with Connor when he said that he thought the house was move-in ready. I nodded my head vigorously and exclaimed “Absolutely!” when he articulated the thought that there was nothing of an urgent nature that needed to be done. Is it any surprise to anyone who owns a home that the day after settlement found him taking down ceilings and ripping up laminate floors? And oh those colors that we thought could be tolerated: midnight blue, dark purple, highlighter orange… what were these people thinking?? As much as I knew that a good bit of the work was going to involve me, I couldn’t help but smile. This is what we all do. We buy a house thinking that it’ll be okay to occupy what was once someone else’s vision, but we quickly learn that we really do need to take almost immediate action. It’s all part of the process of making the house our own, giving it a new identity, and manifesting our own dream.
Two weeks ago my youngest son bought his first house, and in between spackling and painting and refinishing floors I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of home, and what it actually means. I’ve always associated it with a sense of comfort, security, certainty, and where I felt most like myself. For me, home is North on my compass, or the thing that grounds me and guides me as I make my way through life. I don’t consider this to be earth-shattering; I think that most of us probably look at home in a similar way. Is it a location or place then for us, like the country we live in? The United States is where I live, as do many of the people who read this blog, and while the events of the last few years have definitely made us feel less comfortable and less secure, they’ve also acutely reminded us of the need for home to provide those elements. Narrowing things down from there, If our country feels like home, then certainly the city or town that we live in provides us with a sense of home as well. I know that mine does, for sure. I live in a small town with a main street just a half block away that has restaurants and shops, and places for coffee (ah the real definition of home), and access to the train that heads into Philadelphia. It’s nice to pop my head into a shop and have the owner recognize me. I’m going to throw one out to the parents who are reading and say that whatever school our children are in, especially if they’re young, most definitely feels like home. My children attended a small Catholic school that was certainly North on my compass for many years, and I still feel that way whenever I’m in the company of the people with whom I spent time there. They remain a great source of comfort and security for me. Can a job feel like home? Of course it can. I feel very much at home behind the bar at Recklesstown. I love our customers, and my co-workers, and I feel with certainly that I’m meant to be there, doing that kind of work. What about the actual house we live in? Absolutely, but circumstances can change the feeling. Our childhood home often feels vastly different after both our parents are gone, and the family home we’ve created as parents is certainly never quite the same without our children living in it.