“I’ve learned that home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.”Cecilia Ahern, Irish novelist
My elementary school years were spent in a one story, U shaped neighborhood school. Walks to the school over the years, and still now, provide me with a recalibration. I start at my kindergarten window peeking inside Miss Fisher’s class and then peek in every one of my classroom windows. Until the last class in the B wing. Mr. Romanello’s class. 6th grade
A solitary maple tree stood across from the back door of our room. That door flung open once each day when weather allowed. Twenty plus kids raced out to and around the tree at recess. I was a slow runner. Not Liz Livingston. She ran with such ease and confidence like a gazelle with long, beautiful strides. Effortless. We’d run to the tree, touch it, and then run back toward our classroom. I usually had the honor of shutting the door as the last one in. I look at the photo of my 6th grade class and still hear the laughter, the chatter, the teacher’s voice. I was 11. Especially now that I am with 6th graders at school every day, those years and that place are reawakening. Loudly. A touchstone.
In 2018, on the one-year anniversary of my mother’s passing, I was undeniably pulled to revisit the entirety of that week we spent in the hospital. I lived in full residence at the hospital from a Monday afternoon to a Friday afternoon with my father and brothers. Being with my mother was everything, the only thing, that mattered. We took turns sleeping in the garden atrium at night. We ate in the cafe as we took turns stepping away from my mother’s side. Coffee and muffins were left for us near her door each morning. A gift it was to be there, truly. An impossible occurrence today.
Betsy, my mother’s oncology nurse practitioner, honored my request to visit that next June. She knew what this anniversary visit represented. How needed it was. She graciously met me in the lobby and then we rode the elevator to the 4th floor East. She walked me all the way down the hallway into the very room where my mother took her last breath. She listened to me process that day, that week. Betsy offered the same compassion that she did a full year before. Going back was necessary. Healing. A touchstone.
Walks with my father down at the beach over these past five years take me back to our childhood days at the beaches dotted from Todd’s Point to Point Judith. Sometimes we talk and walk and sometimes we walk in silence. The good kind of silence. Years from now I’ll visit the beach thinking of our walks and our together days in the absence of my mother. Even in my mind I can place myself at the beach and have the same feeling as if walking in the wind, listening to my steps crunching on mussel shells as I take in gulps of salt air. A touchstone.
I’ve always experienced extreme restlessness when on the verge of life’s many transitions. Somehow I’ve always sensed the tides shifting long before the change even presented itself. With change on the far horizon or at my feet, I’ve been compelled to navigate back to my places, my spaces, and my people. By returning and capturing a sound, a song, a smell, or sight, I always felt steadier. Calmer. Like a gentle hand was ushering me forward.
Fluidity. Everything in motion. Like the ocean. Listen to the water. Watch the water. Calm. Still. Stormy. Turbulent. Our touchstones are simply buoys marking the places and spaces and relationships of a life. Of the many homes and places I’ve lived in, all remain a part of me. I still navigate between many of those places today where my people still are, where my thoughts still are. And where I can reenergize and recalibrate.
The Blue Door welcomed me back from a recent visit to see my father back at home. When I left that Friday the door was a heavy chocolate brown. With no meaning or connection to me. But when I returned the door was blue. A few weeks earlier I mentioned how much I’d love to have the barn door painted blue. The importance of this Blue Door is still percolating. Maybe years from now the Door will whisper still to be experienced stories and memories of this house. Hide and seek behind the door with grandchildren. Or watching them play dolls, house or farm.
In this house, after two turbulent and unpredictable years, I’m only just now gingerly setting some roots down. Day by day. Seeing the Blue Door first thing every morning has been drawing me forward. That’s really how simple it is. The way forward allows me to begin adding this house to the many spaces in my life I’ve called home. Places still very much mine. Places that offer a feeling hard to define. But a strong feeling it is. Perhaps, hope.