WARNING: Herein follows a post in which I get very, very raw and REAL.
It has been nearly seven months since my family relocated to Indianapolis from our home at camp. Leaving camp was hands-down the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I hoped that as time went on, as we adjusted to our lives here, things would get easier. That we would all make peace with our new lives.
For a long time, months and months, not a single day went by without two or three of my kids asking me when we were going back to camp, when we were going "home." And it ripped my heart out every time. It was obvious from the way that they asked that they missed it as much as I did. That they were just biding time in this new life too.
When people asked the girls if they liked their new school, they would answer honestly, "It's okay. But I miss my old school and my old friends. I liked it there better." Not that there's anything wrong with this school. It's frankly a better school, if you're judging by academic standards. But the girls had a hard time getting their hearts into it, even though they each had their very best friends in all of life here to guide them. (Thank goodness for that--I don't know what we would have done without those friends to ease the transition. The kids, and I, probably would have self-combusted.)
When it came time for each of the kids' birthdays (Bryn and Shay in November, and now Liam upcoming in March), each of them had the same answer: "I want to go to camp to celebrate." But birthday parties in the CAC aren't an option for us anymore.
This past Saturday, I asked Bryn what she wanted to do this summer. She looked at me like I was crazy. "Go to camp, of course," she said. I got a lump in my throat. "Okay," I said, "You're registered to go Week 1. But what about the rest of the summer? Maybe you could try going to church camp too. It would be good for you to get to know the kids from our church better; after all, you're going to be growing up with them...."
I was saved from further blathering on when she interrupted me. "WHAT?!?" she cried. "You mean we're staying here???"
In the conversation that followed, it became painfully clear that she has considered the past seven months of her life to be impermanent, a stopping-off-point, a waiting period before she goes back to her real life at camp.
It pretty much broke my heart into a million pieces to tell her that sorry, but this is the real thing. This is our real lives. As much as she (and I) might wish otherwise, we are not going back to camp. She will not get a whole summer, or a whole lifetime, at camp as we had planned. She will get one week--and that is more than the rest of us will get.
And even though I broke it to her as gently as possible, she cried and cried and cried. And so did I.
I don't know why she thought that we were going back. Maybe because she knew we were renting our house, knew that we'd eventually be moving again? Or maybe she just wished for it so hard that she came to believe it.
And she's not the only one thinking like this.
Today, I convinced Liam to take a rare nap. As he snuggled up next to me, he whispered, "Mama? I miss Irving..... And the Trading Post..... And the dining hall.... And our log house. And our white house..... And the tennis courts..... And the golf carts..... And the long straight road with the big hill by the lake..... Mama? I miss every single thing about camp." And then he cried quietly until he fell asleep.
And that pretty much sums up exactly how I have felt every single day for the past seven months.
It comes to me in flashes, the home I miss so much. My kids holding hands as they walk under Irving the Indian and across the parking lot to the dining hall to dinner--that's my favorite image, one I saw nearly every day. And others: Too-short legs swinging from a too-tall bench in the back of chapel. Little boys huffing and puffing up the lake road. Aiden's baby face smeared with lasagna as he shoveled in dinner with his chubby baby hands. Brave, confident daughters singing and laughing. The kids getting endless hugs from counselors. Sunshine.
And even though what we have here is fine, maybe even good, there's this ache in my gut that says it's never going to be enough. That once you've had something so big, so beautiful, so REAL, going back to everyday life is never going to be enough.
There are days when I feel like we're ticking off boxes here, everything falling into place, and I think, "Oh, this is what a good life should be." Wonderful friends that we get to see regularly. A church home. A good school for my kids. A good job for my husband. Grad school for me. Good job prospects on the horizon for me. Activities that my kids enjoy. Check, check, check.
But even while I'm checking those boxes, there is this thing inside me screaming: But there is something MORE! There is sunshine! There's the wind in the pines! There's the sound of chapel songs from your front porch! There are campfires and laughter late at night! There are those hundreds of smiling faces.... and the energy..... and dance parties in the dining hall..... There's being surrounded by a cause that you believe in, breathing it in, living it night and day. And most of all, even though we're all imperfect people, there's the LOVE.
And when I let myself think about that, I don't know how I'm going to make it another seven DAYS, much less another seven months, or years, or the rest of my life, away from all of those things that I love so much, away from all of those things that make up the essence of what's best in me.
So I try to convince myself that this is what adulthood is--tamping down that scream that keeps rising up in my throat, ignoring the memory that tells me that there's something better, fighting down the voice that urges me not settle for a perfectly normal life.
But... but... what about my kids? They're not happy like this either. They long to go home to camp with a depth of emotion that I can't explain away. It's not that they don't like it here; they do. They love their friends and their teachers and their activities. But something deep within their hearts is crying out for the unique home that can't be reproduced.
So I don't know what to do. It's a pain that can't be resolved. I ache for home, long for it. I do not exaggerate when I say that I dream of it every single night. There are days when I feel so desperate to go back that I think I would do anything, ANYTHING, to make it happen--throw away my graduate degree to scrub toilets with my toothbrush and live in an unheated, one-room yurt year-round if it would just mean that my family and I could go home. But after a while, reason (or Ben) kicks in, and I realize that the yurt-and-toothbrush route isn't a viable option.
So what's left? This, I guess. Going through life filled with longing. Drying my kids' tears. Wishing that I could go back.