Chasing Childhood

It’s well past twilight, well past laughter and lawn mowers, well past normal blogging start time and well past the cut-off time for all mentally stimulating tasks established by my doctor to best “facilitate the induction of sleep.”  With Chuck recovering from an emergency root canal today, I missed our typical Tuesday gym mentor elliptical exchange.  I’m thrown off balance, but recent trials are forcing me to accept my need to adjust and be flexible.

I wasn’t ready to write, yet.  Chuck has a gift at navigating me through a free talk at a fast pace, literally and figuratively.  The mind and the body move, and though no visible progress is made, after forty-five minutes, a tiny screen confirms the distance completed and calories burned.  There’s no digital read out for a therapeutic dialogue with a friend, but when I sat down to write tonight, it was as though I’d missed a mental workout with Chuck and any processing gains that would have accompanied it.  In fact, it’s been five days since our schedules lined up.  Unusual, yes, so I adjusted.

Instead of writing, I called my mom from my white wicker love seat to ask her about our weekends in Cape Cod when I was little.   Maybe she was on the love seat beside the couch where my father was manning the remote for their routine evening programming like the last three decades.  It’s easy to picture them because even the couches are the same.  We’re creatures of habit, my mom and I, and we both equally cherish my childhood memories in that house and from all our adventures.

This weekend, I headed down to the Outer Banks to the beach house in Duck where my family will vacation during the week prior to my wedding.  Charming’s Bible Study crew and their kids took advantage of Veteran’s Day weekend to unwind and have fun.  By the time I’d joined them late Friday afternoon, it was clear that Charming was experiencing that which makes him feel honored to be a Veteran – surrounded by family and friends and his future wife in a beach house where he’d vacationed most of his life with time to play complex, strategic board games and watch the sun set over the sound – these are the people he went to war to protect, the simple freedom to pursue life, liberty, and happiness symbolized in a few days where normalcy was interrupted.

We’ve been to Duck a couple of times now, once with Charming’s parents in the spring, and then again to choose our wedding venues over Columbus Day weekend.  The sea and the sand remind me of our family trips to Cape Cod.  We went for several years, always renting the same beach house for Columbus Day weekend.  Though it was the same time of year, the scent near the shores of the Outer Banks was subtle compared to the fragrance of Cape Cod in October, the cool ocean breeze carrying salty, sandy clouds two blocks inland.

While I was building sand castles, maybe Charming was doing the same nearly seven hundred miles South on the Atlantic Ocean, and some of the parents in the house this weekend were just little girls playing with sea shells alongside him, his sister included.  I enjoyed my chats with her this weekend, and I was encouraged by the authentic friendship we’ll deepen in seasons to come.  I wondered what it was like for Charming to experience the generational shift.  Is this what his childhood vacation memories are made of?

Certainly, our weekend was different.  As grownups, we were all keeping one eye on the needs of the six children circling energetically underfoot.  Charming and I scheduled our first cake testing and were able to attend Sunday morning service at the church where we’ll be married in seven months.  Back at the house, parents balanced responsibilities and personal playtime, seemingly have established a seamless system for alternating coverage in such a way as each appeared to have a fun weekend that was even relaxing at times, especially after the kids were tucked away in the bunk beds downstairs.

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I remember vividly my room with the slanted ceiling in our Cape Cod rental, and looking back, it’s odd considering I was so young and we only visited a handful of times.  Mom and I just naturally knew we had to make our moments count, I think.  I love Cape Cod with all the waves of nostalgia its mention puts into motion; nevertheless, the ebb and flow of the Atlantic was a distant star in relationship to the childhood I loved more than the Cape, in our white house with the black shutters in Upstate New York.

Charming and I have shared many a holiday with his family in the house he grew up in, and on a recent visit I even got a glimpse at a camcorder home video recording of my teenage Charming acting in a skit at a church fundraiser for a mission’s trip.  My instant response was to find a time capsule and rewrite history, defying space and time and logic to have been a part of moments like those in Charming’s life.

That’s a significantly different childhood from the one I experienced, yet given the opportunity to know Charming all the days of my life, the thought occurred to abandon it all; perhaps I can credit it to the free reign of imagination when dreaming about impossibilities.  In sane moments, moments when I’m not realizing I would have fallen in love with this camcorder Charming just as quickly as the thirty-five year old who proposed to me, I cherish my childhood and wouldn’t change a thing.

While that should embolden my parents and serve as a digital read out proving the completed distance and calories burned in raising me produced positive results, there’s a new factor in the equation that affects future outcomes in my life.   Charming comes to our relationship with his own childhood experience.  I don’t factor into his past, and he doesn’t factor into mine, but we factor into the future home that we’re going to build together and the type of childhood we’ll give our kids.

Andy Stanley’s sermon series have become a part of my nighttime routine.  I’ve finished the series, “Scared to Death” working through fear in the past, present, and future, and I’ve moved on to: “What Couples Should Know”.  Last night, I listened to Andy’s second podcast in the series.  He talks about how we all enter into marriage with hopes, dreams, and desires and flushes out the implications of what happens when these things become expectations for your spouse.

I’ve had my future children’s lives planned out since I was a child, modeled after my childhood.  I never considered an alternate suburban Easter picture.  We’re posed in front of the door of our Colonial style home in outfits of coordinating color, my daughter still clutching her Bible after church where she’s made friends with the children of our small group, and the neighbor we cat-sit for occasionally pops outside just in time to take the family photograph.

I don’t know how to make sure that my hopes, dreams, and desires don’t transform Charming into a debtor who has to fulfill my expectations, though I imagine the next podcast contains Andy Stanley’s answer with a preview that concludes, “But what are we suppose dot do about our hopes, dreams, and desires?”

I’m not waiting for Andy’s answer.  I’ve been working through this tonight.  Like writing night, adjusting expectations to current circumstances is the appropriate response.  Mom said that she never envisioned her future family to be like hers was growing up, but rather that she wanted to marry the best things of both their childhoods.  In the end, with the freedom Dad gave her, she felt they were able to do even more.  That’s how I experienced it, in that home, with that family.

I didn’t have any expectations for Charming’s proposal, and it blew me away.  Here and now, I commit to adjust my expectations for the future, and maybe even apply a bit of Mom wisdom, finding the overlap and intersection of the best of our ideas for an ideal family experience.  This house in Hampton is starting to lose the feeling of “home”, because I feel most loved, welcomed, and accepted when I’m with Charming.  It doesn’t matter if we live on the East Coast or a military base on the other side of the country or the world.  It doesn’t matter if we relocate every three years.  It doesn’t matter if I never have a house like my parents’ encasing three decades of memories where the roots run deep.

Charming is home.  We will grow roots.  We take the best of our dreams, hopes, and desires, and we’ll bloom where we’re planted.  If and when we relocate, it’s a transplanting process for a marriage.  Our roots will continue to extend deeper and deeper with each new version of us – each addition to the family or loss therein, a career shift, a job relocation – the names and the faces and the places will color and fill a collective garden around us that is no less inspiring for its transience.

When two officially become one, home is wherever Charming and I are together, and home is where those roots will grow.  Sure, I’m still praying for a front porch swing, but the rest is negotiable.  Like his proposal, I believe that life with Charming is going to blow me away.  That’s the only expectation that matters, a conclusion that serves as my digital confirmation that progress was made on this chilly, November night, writing well past all routines, ready for my new Home to call… after he finishes reading this blog post, faithful and true.

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