Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Unopened letters

A bundle of cards and letters sits on the desk in my bedroom.  My friends gave them to me, along with sweet gifts, as I packed up our life in Virginia to prepare to move back to Colorado three months ago.  I opened the gifts. Such treasures - wine glasses etched "Virginia is for Lovers," a hand painted mug with an inspired quote about our book club, a beautiful sterling silver bracelet, an engraved spoon that says Farm Girls Like Coffee. Thoughtful gifts. I love them.

But I can't read the cards. Not yet.

I read Kerry's before I left. She told me the ways our friendship has inspired her. It was one of the nicest cards anyone ever wrote to me.  Now I can't bring myself to open the others. I miss my friends too much to read their heartfelt words. I tear up every time I think too long about them. When I sit for more than a minute and let my mind grab a hold of a memory of our coffee group or bunco or a rally in the alley or our recent girls' trip, the tears come almost instantly and I have to shake it off and move on to some meaningless task in the day so I don't dwell on the hole left by their absence.

The cards wait for me on the desk. I am not ready to cry buckets.

I knew this move would be hard. Moving always sucks. We've done it 3 times in 10 years. But I thought this move would be hardest on the kids. Turns out, it's crazy hard on me too. The hardest move so far. When we decided to try for this job transfer for the third time, I told my husband that the only one unhappy in Virginia was him; the kids and I were perfectly content.

Except that we always had to hop on a plane to see family (expensive.) 

Except that my mom is getting older and sicker, won't travel, and needs my help more frequently. Being in Colorado would mean I could get to her easily.

Except that I didn't want my kids to go to high school then college in Virginia because Dad and I would move back to our beloved Colorado eventually. I wouldn't want to leave our settled older kids behind. 

Our plan when we left Colorado ten years ago was to return the first chance we got.  And, if at all possible before our kids got to high school. (T-Bone will be a freshman next year.)  This was the plan!  It's what I always hoped for.

I love Colorado. The Rocky Mountains took a firm hold when my grandparents drove my sister and me from Texas to  Estes Park for a week in a cabin when I was eight years old.  Crisp air, cold mountain streams twinkling in the sun, high peaks towering in the blue - I was hooked. Twenty years later I packed up my car the day after Christmas and drove myself to Denver to start a new job and a new chapter. I was done with Texas and ready for a big-girl adventure. Those first few years in Denver were some of the happiest of my life. Skiing, camping, falling in love, getting married,  having beautiful babies.

So why does it hurt so much to be back in paradise?

Because adjusting takes time. New friendships don't start instantaneously.  New paths aren't worn into familiar comfort overnight. I know all this. It's what I tell my kids. And myself. I am lucky to have friends here I am excited to be reconnecting with. One of my sister-in-laws lives here and I really like her! I can't get enough of the fresh air and mountains. I am maybe most excited at the thought that I might never have to move again. This is where I want my roots to be forever on out.

It is good to be back.  But it doesn't diminish what I've lost.

I miss smiling faces on the alley happy to see me as we wind down for an easy weekend. I miss hearing the kids squawk and giggle playing basketball, skate boarding, throwing the ball around on the back driveway. I miss little girls piled in toy electric cars while the little boys drive them over the grass. I miss wine and book talk late into Tuesday night and turning around the next morning to have coffee and breakfast casseroles at our "play group." My home in Virginia was the strongest, most connected I've been to a big group of wonderful people since growing up in The Fort.

When will I be ready to read those cards and letters?  

Perhaps when old and new friendships are plentiful enough to hold back quick tears. I am keeping busy, I am having fun. There are old friends here I care a lot about. But the new people I meet aren't very inviting and welcoming. A few have been lovely but on the whole, I expected it to be easier than this to meet new people. It's a bit lonely so far. I don't talk about this with my friends "back home" in Virginia. I haven't admitted it to my husband yet. (I am just starting to fully admit it my self.)  Being lonesome is a very rare emotion for me; and a despised one.

I am not sure when I'll open myself up to the colorful bundle on my desk.  Right now I am trying to to be open to all the happiness Colorado has in store for me this time around.  I am out there looking for it.  

Sunday, August 9, 2015

A story inspired by a walk

Written June 25, 2015

I’ve been enjoying morning walks with wonderful women this week. We’ve laughed a lot while pounding the sideways around our neighborhood, complaining about our thighs and tight clothes, telling stories of bunco and book club. I’ve forced my friends to stop many times so I can take pictures. Of purple wildflowers that line the walkway. Of a pristine lake in an adjacent neighborhood. Of a lone crow perched on a fence post. 

They claim I am slowing them down. I now realize it’s part of my preparation.

          When I returned home from this morning’s walk, I started remembering a book my mom read to me and I, in turn, read to my kids. Frederick by Leo Lionni (1966) is about a field mouse who has a unique way of preparing for the dark days of winter. My mom passed the book on to me from her bookshelf when my son was old enough to enjoy it over a decade ago. The inside cover has my birth name written in my mother’s smooth cursive and the date she first read it to me. My crayon scribbles are throughout. 

         Something about the story reminds me of my ambling preparation to leave my home of 7 years in Virginia to return to Colorado.
The story begins in the waning days of autumn. The elder mice instruct Frederick and his community of mice to quickly gather supplies for winter - nuts and seeds for food, straw for warmth, anything that will help sustain them through the spare winter months underground. The mice scurry around their farm, productively packing away important supplies. 

Everyone except Frederick. He lays on the hill watching cotton ball clouds drift across the blue sky. He wanders through a field of tall grass inhaling the fragrance of moist soil and wild flowers. He watches ducks take flight from the surface of the farm pond.

The elders grow annoyed. Despite their pleas, Frederick continues on his course, intent on enjoying his beautiful surroundings. He has no tangible supplies.

           The first snow falls and the mice abandon the farm for their subterranean chamber. They are well stocked and spend their early days in happy, close quarters.  But eventually the days grow long.  Nuts and seeds run low. The mice become weary in the cramped, grey quarters. 

         At their lowest point, Frederick steps forward to share what he'd been gathering during those carefree autumn days on the farm.


He asks his family to close their eyes and open their hearts. He whispers and they listen intently. Frederick tells tales of golden corn swaying in the breeze and white puffy clouds whisking across the bright skies. He conjures the sites and smells of carefree days in the green meadow chasing shadows and napping in the golden brush. He describes the sounds of laughter and friendship as they played games in the sunshine.

His family thought he was gathering nothing as the seasons changed. But, Frederick was storing what he thought would make him and his family feel happy and bright during the coming season.

            I understand Frederick’s intent. I find myself doing the same. I am filling my mind with a picture book of beautiful Virginia and treasured friendships. On a morning walk, I am etching in my mind the gentle curve of emerald fields and a copper, farmhouse roof reflecting an early sun. At one last bunco, I am listening to jokes, laughs and giggles streaming throughout the house. 

Preparing for my move from Virginia back to Colorado, I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out what to get rid of, what to keep, and what to hold onto dearly. And I desperately want to hold onto the connection I have with these women. Each in her own way, she’s helped me raise my kids with confidence and sanity.  They’ve given me and each other the gift of acceptance.  They’ve inspired me to do better and be better all the while not taking it all so seriously.  I will miss the ways our lives are twisted and wound together.  

 When those many moments come when I miss them terribly, I will hopefully have a warehouse of memories to soothe me. 


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