Finding Home

Dec 12, 2016 by

Finding Home

My husband Steve and I are playing vagabonds this year. Instead of hunkering down in Michigan for a long winter’s nap, we decided to hit the road and follow the sunshine to where our daughter and her family live. Spending five months in the desert southwest would be paradise, Steve and I decided: family nearby, plus no snow, no ice, and no frigid temperatures to deal with. 2,700 miles later, we’re settled. Our new surroundings include cactus, palm trees, and plenty of sunshine. There’s a pool in the backyard of the house we’ve rented, and comfortable lounge chairs for sunning. The house has every modern convenience known to man, plus comfortable beds, a cozy fireplace, all located in a safe, quiet neighborhood. Our daughter and family are merely ten minutes away. Life is good… especially when we tune in to the Weather Channel, and hear those reports of arctic blasts hitting most of the nation. Steve and I look at each other, shake our heads and smile. We made the right decision. Right?

 

pool

 

You’d think so.

 

And yet…

 

Somehow, things feel ‘off’.

 

There’s no place like home.

 

I’m not sure why I’m feeling adrift. Maybe it’s because I’m such a creature of habit. Here’s an example. My kitchen in Michigan has an electric stove. Now, granted, I don’t profess to be much of a cook; yet suddenly, the culinary world  demands I use the gas monstrosity in my new kitchen (smart appliances, all the way). And oh, by the way, that incomprehensible stove features two ovens. Good Lord, I barely know how to use one oven, let alone two! And while Steve helped me figure out how to ‘bake’ in the top oven, I have yet to unravel the mystery of how the oven timer actually works. Finally I resorted to using my trusty little ‘writing timer’ (normally sitting on my office desk). Now, however, it’s taken up semi-permanent residence on the kitchen counter.

 

gas-oven

 

 

There’s no place like home.

 

Do you love taking long walks? I do! And Michigan offers particular delights, especially with the balmy summertime temps. But once autumn arrives, the temperatures drop. Before we left on our winter hiatus, I’d taken to bundling up in layers: heavy sweater, scarf, mittens, winter jacket, ear muffs, and boots, before setting out on my daily walks. “Just wait till you go south,” I kept promising myself, pushing through the cold wind. “You’ll be able to walk whenever and wherever you want.” But no one warned me that I could be attacked whenever I walked down the sidewalk. Do you have any idea how prickly cactus plants can be? It only takes casually sideswiping one JUST ONCE, and you’ll find yourself muttering ‘ouch, ouch, ouch!’ on the rest of your journey.

 

cactus

 

 

There’s no place like home.

 


Life in the fast lane
. I’m not kidding about this. Now that we’re living in a major metropolitan area, I’ve had to adjust my driving habits. No more simply driving below or at the posted speed limit. Now I’m suddenly traversing three-four-five-six lane highways, with cars zipping around me, caught in stop-and-go traffic, yielding, merging. “You’ve got to go with the flow of traffic!” Steve constantly warns when I’m behind the wheel. “They drive crazy out here!” I respond, increasing my speed and simultaneously saying a prayer. Will I survive these five months?

 

 

traffic

 

There’s no place like home.

 

“Hi there! I’m your new neighbor. My husband and I are renting the house next door, and we’ll be here through May 1st,” I said with a big smile for our next-door neighbor, who was out on his front lawn decorating a prickly cactus with strands of twinkling Christmas lights. He didn’t respond, but only stared at me like I’d just arrived from another planet. “We’re from Michigan,” I explained. “Our daughter lives near here, and we’re spending the winter in the desert southwest.” Shrugging, he continued stringing his lights. “I just thought I’d introduce myself,” I added, giving him one last chance. “People come and go,” he said, looking like he’d prefer to put up a fence between us, rather than talk to me. And that was the end of our ‘non-chat’. “Some people just don’t talk much,” Steve explained, when I relayed the conversation. But that’s not the way it is in Northern Michigan. People like to talk. They like to know what you’re up to. People in town know everyone’s business… and if they don’t, they can easily find out by chatting with others at the town’s grocery store. The local rumor mill is fodder for lots of gossip (and real news) on any given day. But don’t get me wrong. Not everyone I’ve met out here in the desert southwest has been frosty or rude. Some of them have been downright pleasant. But they’re just different than I’m used to. It will take a little adjusting. But I’ll get there. Meanwhile…

 

There’s no place like home.

 

 

And yet…

 

What’s left for me back in Michigan? I call it home… but then, what about where I am now? My guy is here with me. And our daughter (our ‘only’ child) is now only ten minutes away. Her precious little guys (our 6 yr. old twin grandsons) are so sweet, and we love them dearly. Spending time with them, taking in a weekday Disney matinee (no afternoon matinees in our little Northern Michigan town), playing OLD MAID, CRAZY 8’s, GO FISH. Yes, we can Skype, but we can’t play cards on-line. And you can’t give hugs and kisses on-line. You can’t take your daughter out for a mother/daughter luncheon/gabfest, or escape to the mall where you go crazy in the fragrance section, giggling like BFFs.

 

A Christmas Eve celebration with the family. Attending Mass together. Christmas Day spent playing board games, laughing, singing songs, being silly together. Living, laughing, loving.

 

Prickly cactus plants and all… 

There’s no place like home.

 

christmas-2016

 

Related Posts

Share This

2 Comments

  1. Janine

    Oh Kathleen, there is no place like home, but isn’t it wonderful to experience new homes even if they are only temporary. Your new neighbour doesn’t know what he is missing having you living next door. I think people are less neighbourly than they used to be. Our wonderful neighbours have recently moved to be closer to the city for their work, and we miss them so. We did not live in one another’s pockets, but they were always there to have a cheeky wine out on the deck or to borrow a cup of something. My husband gave them several lifts out to the airport when they were travelling for work or holidays, and we collected each other’s mail and put out the rubbish bins and watered the garden. As we get older too it’s nice to have someone to call on in an emergency. I pity this man
    I think the positives will outweigh the negatives and you will have so much fun living life in the fast lane for a while. Can’t wait till we eventually catch up hopefully in 2018

  2. Kathleen Irene Paterka

    Janine, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about your wonderful neighbors (I’m sure you miss them!) and my own prickly-neighbor. It shall be an interesting five months living next door to him, I’m sure. Meanwhile, I agree with you completely that positives DO outweigh the negatives, and that it is up to US (regardless of what others choose to do) to make a difference in the world. My prickly neighbor has definitely increased my prayer life, plus helped me remember what a kind, generous man I have to call my own. Have a wonderful Christmas with family and friends, Janine! Looking forward to meeting you in the future! xxoo ~ Kathleen