I have been reflecting on the idea of Place and Home as I prepare to make a trip back to the United States to visit my family for two months. This post is part of a series of my thoughts on what it means to be part of a family, a community, a home...
After many years of traveling and searching for a place to settle down, I have come to understand the statement, "You can never go home again." Of course you can go back to the geographical place that shaped your childhood. And if you are lucky, you may even be able to go back to the physical structure your family lived in. But once you leave, you return with new eyes, new experiences, new ideas. "Home" is different. You are different.

When you live in a place for a period of time, you succumb to its rhythms. You are influenced by its landscape. You build community with its people. When you leave and then return, you have a new rhythm. You have been influenced by a new place. You have a new community. Sometimes these new things clash with the old ones...

At the end of this month, I will be returning to my hometown to visit with my family. I am excited, overjoyed, anxious and nervous all at the same time. When I left in June of 2010, Shine had just turned four, I was pregnant with Song, the natural gas companies were still just thinking about drilling in that area of Pennsylvania and my family was not dealing with cancer.

Now I will be returning with an articulate and kooky five year old and a very independent one year old! The gorgeous landscape that I loved exploring is now littered with heavy gas drilling equipment and the waterways I enjoyed canoeing and swimming in are polluted from hydrofracking. My father has terminal cancer. It is not the same home of my childhood...nor the one I left just 16 months ago. The landscape is changed. My family is changed. I am changed.

I wonder how I will respond to all the changes. I wonder how Shine will fit in with his new Jamaican accent. I wonder what Song will think of all the new people. I wonder if my family will notice changes in me. I wonder what it will be like to watch my dad struggle with his illness. I wonder what Shine will say when he sees the physical changes that the disease have made in his Poppo. I wonder if I will break down and cry when I see him. I wonder how Song will do on the flight. I wonder what it will be like to see my brother and brother-in-law waiting for us at the terminal gate. I wonder what it will be like to hug my nephews and hear them talk and giggle. I wonder what Poppo's expression will be while he watches all of his grandchildren playing together. I wonder if my mom will cry when we walk through the door. I wonder how tired we will all look. I wonder if I will be able to tell my dad all the things I long to share with him. I wonder if Grandma will make apple pie for Thanksgiving. I wonder how many important family conversations we will have. I wonder how much we will talk about death. I wonder how much we will talk about life. I wonder how we will adjust to the Fall and Winter weather...putting on boots and bundling in coats and mittens. I wonder if it will snow. I wonder if Song will like the snow. I wonder if I will get to see all of my family and friends that I long to catch up with. I wonder if I will miss my new home in Jamaica. I wonder what will happen when I return again to Kingston in January...will I fit in, will the kids fit in, will we just pick up where we left off...

On my cousin's farm.

Poppo and Shine riding through the fields.

On the river


Hiking the gorgeous mountains.

Nature reminds us how small we really are.
The home I grew up in.


Three generations

This was taken right before we left for Jamaica. Song was with us!


Heather said…
I long for those mountains and that peace as well.

Amazing how life takes a path so different than what we imagine when we're teenagers! :) Love you! Kiss your mom and dad for me.
elissa said…
There are a lot of tears falling while I read this post, Rae. I'm so very happy that you'll be coming home to your family and friends, and so very sad regarding your dad's diagnosis... The only thing I can humbly add is to talk, talk, and talk some more. Hugs and kisses and tears are wonderful, too. Don't hold ANYTHING back. These two months will be wonderful and difficult and beautiful. As I mentioned before, we are only 2 hours south, so we would love to come see you all. Finn & Maeve would love to play with Shine and Song, and we would love to spend time with you and your amazing clan. We can easily make a day trip up - just let us know when! We love you, Rae. Love and Light to you...
Betty Buckle said…
To my sweet niece, one thing you do not have to wonder about is the steadfast circle of love surrounding your father and mother. You will certainly see and feel that for yourself. The rhythms of all of our lives have changed even though we have remained in the same place. That constant rhythm of love and devotion has kept all of your extended family focused and able to take care of your parents and there is still joy and happiness. Can't wait to see you. Love A. Betty