We were talking spring, my pastor and I.
After sticking to our meeting’s agenda until the last item was crossed off the things-to-talk-about list, we wandered away from the business at hand and entered new territory: gardens.
Unless it was hope.
Sometimes I get the two confused.
When he asked how I was doing – really doing – I told him that I think I’m finally working my way out of the wilderness of grief and change since my husband died six months ago. Some days are good, I said. I actually feel like myself again, but some days, I don’t even want to leave the house.
I thought he was going to tell me there are no rules, to give myself as much time as I need, that I’ve had a lot on my plate these last few years and to give myself a break. He has been a constant source of compassion and care – and always a listening ear – since he moved to town a few years ago.
Instead, he surprised me. He looked at me for a long time, and then he quietly said: “Well, you ARE a homebody.”
I didn’t know what to say.
Home has always been important to me, yes; a sense of place calms my soul and steadies me. But a homebody? For the first time in a long time, I saw myself through someone else’s eyes. And I didn’t recognize myself.
My pastor didn’t know me when I worked seven days a week, long past quitting time, because that’s the only way I knew how to get the stories I wrote for the newspaper. The people I interviewed were just as apt to set up an appointment after supper when the kids were in bed or on a Saturday morning because that was their only day off – or all times of day or night after someone died or was assaulted or needed to tell his or her story – now, not tomorrow or next week. Now. When your son is killed in war or your toddler dies in a fire or your child is diagnosed with a cruel disease, time doesn’t mean anything – so I was there, when they wanted.
He didn’t know that in the newspaper world, you could work until 2 a.m. covering a concert and have to be right back in the newsroom by 7:30 a.m., covering whatever news was unfolding at the moment. He’s only known me since the newspaper retired my colleagues and me – in a massive downsizing – and I’ve worked out of my home. He didn’t know me before my husband was sick and needed around-the-clock care, before he moved into assisted living, and I organized every day around being with him. My pastor didn’t know me when I thought I could work more than fulltime and volunteer, too.
A lot of nights, by the time I got home, I collapsed on the sofa with my cats, watched a little TV, went to bed and set the alarm for the next day to start all over again. That was before I got married, of course. Then I had to make dinner before I could collapse on the sofa.
I suppose that’s what he sees – someone who seeks the sanctuary of home, someone who likes pretty dishes and has given into the trend of too many pillows on every surface in the house, someone who likes window boxes and cloth napkins. And napkin rings. Someone who goes into the garden with a shovel and prayer.
But there’s more to the story – the years of activism and working for equal rights for women and girls; the years of volunteering for justice; the years of working in a business that didn’t exactly welcome women when I first looked through the glass ceiling and wanted to get to the other side; the years I was the only woman on a committee or the first woman on a board.
Truth is, I loved that life, but it wasn’t easy hearing the stories I heard on the job or tilting at windmills outside of the newsroom. I needed a place of refuge. After the days and nights I put in, I needed a home, not just a place to land. I needed flower beds that needed weeding and time to throw in laundry while I made a pot of soup or wrote birthday cards or called friends who lived out of town. I needed a night to binge-watch TV and knit – long before it became fashionable. I needed to be home before venturing back out into the world.
Now that I’ve told it, there’s no moral to this story, not that I can see, except it’s good to see yourself through another person’s eyes as you are now, not who you once were – if only to bring yourself back into focus.
So, thank you, Rev. I’m taking a good long look at the woman you see, and while I’m at it, it’s a good thing to know that I love where I live; that this is the place I want to be when I’m not out in the world.
That I have a place called home.
Susan Harrison Wolffis is an award winning writer known for her engaging writing style.