Recently I was standing in the noodle aisle at the grocery store and looking for the ramen my daughter Hadley likes. Precisely at the same time as I found the brand and read that due to high demand I could only purchase two, the song, I’ll Be Home For Christmas crooned through the speakers.
“Only in my dreams,” I said, picking two chicken-flavored packages off the shelf and tossing them into the cart.
There haven’t been a lot of even feelings or times of neutral thinking in my life this year. Words like surge, grief, rage, unprecedented, mandate—albeit all appropriate for the times—set me on edge. They give me a stomachache, tense the nerves in my upper back, and make the tears that are eternally pooled in my eyes spill.
It is in the grocery stores where I have found evenness, and in turn, where I feel (dare I say) hope and joy.
I am very much at home in the grocery store, so I was able to not go to “the bad place” after I acknowledged that I was only going to dream of going home this year for Christmas. There were materials for gingerbread houses I wanted to pick up for the girls, and arugula—my favorite—was on sale, two for one. Pomegranates and clementines were in season, and there was a good looking rye bread I was considering bringing home for turkey and cheddar sandwiches with a tangy honey-mustard and thinly sliced Granny Smith apples for crunch.
I suppose it was in the noodle aisle, reading about yet another restriction, that I realized not that I wasn’t going home for Christmas, but that I actually am at home.
In her book, The True Secret of Writing: Connecting Life with Language, Natalie Goldberg writes, “To be at home with yourself is to be at home in the world, in the interaction with others—and trees, slices of cheese, the broad, sad evolving of politics.”
I won’t be at my parents’ place in North Carolina where we would walk, perhaps daily, to Yellow Dog Bakery for coffees and treats, or take my niece and nephews and my girls to the park with the carousel and train. I won’t be at my in-laws to make banket, or to sit by the fire and open stockings that my mother-in-law works on all year, coordinating wrapping paper according to the present we are supposed to open together. (For example, I always get gummy candies—my favorite—when everyone else opens their chocolate letter.)
This year I get to learn to be at home in myself, something I think I’ve been wanting for a long time now.
A good friend of mine said that the pandemic is going to magnify wherever it is we already are. I think she meant it as a warning, but since she said it in March, I have been considering what part of me needs to develop, what part wants to become. Somewhere between the tri-colored grape tomatoes and the brie, I decided this Christmas, I’ll be a home with who I am.
In margin on the page where Goldberg wrote about what it means to be at home with yourself, I wrote, “Write a list of where and when you feel at home.” That is this week’s poetry prompt. Where will home be in these last few days of 2020? How will you feel at home in 2021?
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I have been a fan of Callie Feyen’s writing for quite some time but I finished this book in almost one sitting. If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie.