There is so much that we love about “home”. People, mainly. My husband’s family hub still lives there, and they were our main reason for returning for a visit six months after we left. I still have siblings there, and their children. We have friends we’ve missed like crazy. We desperately needed the refresher, and even in the midst of some “National Lampoon” memories, the family and friends were absolutely worth it all. There was so much good in the trip.
But I’ll be honest… there is still so much about that place that brings up a lot of feelings of loss and hurt.
Our last months living in Florida were not great. Right before our move, we watched my Dad pass away from an awful battle with cancer. Right as we were getting close again after years of a strained relationship, too. My husband got fired for the first time ever from a job that he poured selflessly into for several years. And I was trying to figure out how to juggle a large cross-states move, selling our house, settling Dad’s affairs, raising a kid, and being a wife, yet I somehow managed to drop the ball of “respect” and “selflessness”, and left Florida on some not-so-good notes with a few.
So can I be candid for a minute and admit that it was difficult for me to go back? I just wasn’t ready. Too much reminds me of my Dad there with all the familiar routes that we had to drive while he was still with us. And seeing the building where my husband used to work, and all the same cars parked out front while they just moved on without a care in the world. That was hard. And everywhere we went, I wondered if that would be the place where I would come face to face with the ones who angrily label my character when what I probably need is a little extra grace.
If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, then you understand what I’m talking about. Even without all the spectacular Lampoon moments, returning home was already on the more emotionally difficult side. But hard or not, sometimes a return is good for the soul. Facing and dealing with the hard parts helps heal, I believe. Helps you lament what needs lamenting. Frees you to move on. And from my experience, it causes you to be thankful.
Although sometimes I do wish some things didn’t have to be so hard, I’m thankful for the stepping stones, and the opportunities for growth and maturity. I’m thankful that it’s in the hard stuff that we can really exercise faith and trust. God showed so much goodness to us in every moment of the aforementioned struggles. He changed us in the midst, and softened my heart in a lot of ways. And so now while I sit here a few weeks after our return has come and gone, I’m just grateful… For where we’ve been, what we’ve endured, and I’m mostly grateful for where we are. Not just the physical place (as much as I love North Carolina), but for the gift we’ve been given in new chapters.
But we wouldn’t be where we are without where we come from. Our roots.
I could’ve done with a little less of this on our trip, though. The weather sketched out on us quite a bit while we were in Florida, and the mere mention of making a trip to the beach would somehow send the atmosphere into a fit of scattered thunderstorms. So we didn’t quite get to sink our toes into that beautiful fluffy white sand or the crystal clear gulf waters. But I guess with a lifetime of beach visits under our belts, the weather gets a pass this time. But next time? Florida skies better chill out!
Speaking of what ELSE we could’ve used a little less of while vacationing… Feast your eyes on this sad situation. Life is never dull with us, and without exaggeration, The Moores are professionals at getting sick while traveling. Jeremy came down with some mystery illness that later made it’s rounds through Selah and I in varying degrees. Halfway through our week there, he became deathly ill vomiting, which eventually landed him at Grandma’s kitchen table, very dehydrated, while his step-dad (an EMT) administered some iv fluids for him. The illness wreaked havoc on our plans for the latter part of the trip, but I’m just thankful we didn’t also have to include a trip to the emergency room to all of our excitement! I’ll be okay to never see my husband in that sort of state again, thankyouverymuch.
Then there was a split second where we thought we’d be leaving Florida with a baby boy. It’s a long story, and one that’s details aren’t meant to be shared here, but yeah. We met with a couple over some coffee and discussed the potential for us to adopt their son. Ultimately, it didn’t work out, and that’s for God’s best. But it was quite the roller coaster of emotions. No pictures of all that, but one cool part about it all was that I got to show Jeremy the home I grew up in. The couple we met with lived right around the corner from my old house, so when we arrived a little early to pick them up for our coffee date, I got to show my husband some of my earliest roots.
Maybe you should press play on Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” right here…
The home is condemned by the city now. Was kind of sad to see, especially knowing what it used to be. This is the home I have some of my earliest memories of living in. Even though it wasn’t in a great part of town, and although my not wealthy, very large family of seven all lived under this *tiny* roof at one time or another, I remember so much about it:
There was a porch swing, and monkey grass that lined the sidewalk. A huge oak tree out front. Swing set on the side. I remember birthday parties in the front yard, where my sisters would use the great big porch as a performance stage. We had neighborhood friends. It’s where I broke my wrist. Where my parents fought some of their ugliest fights. Where my younger brother and I shared a room. We had a clothesline. And a garden. And the front bedroom had these awesome drawers and cabinets built into the wall where I would hide inside. My Dad was a great dad when we lived here. We also had a concrete picnic table outback under a covered patio, and I remember escaping out there and sitting on that table and pretending like I was Whitney Houston. Although I sound nothing like Whitney Houston, I discovered my love for singing on that cement table. The yellow cabinets in the kitchen. The constant playing outside. Weekend visits from my Grandpa. He’d always bring over paper grocery bags filled with old groceries he picked up from the flea market. Pecan wheels were always included. He’d come over with his little dog, Joey, and sit at our kitchen table and rip open a package of pecan wheels while he watched my mom (his daughter) parent five children. This house is where I learned that Santa was make-believe… It was my fault, as I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, only to see my Dad setting out the Christmas presents.
Oh Moreno Street. It was nice to get a little nostalgic for a few minutes and let my husband see a part of my life that was before him.
Some of the highlights of our trip involved catching up with some great friends. Visiting our old church. Seeing my sisters, and one of my nieces. Staying with my in-laws (Selah learned how to play tic-tac-toe). Watching Selah pick up right where she left off with her buddies. Barbeques. Dinner tables. Hugs (and I am not a hug person). Experiencing the joy on my friend’s face when she welcomed us into her family’s very first home. Familiarity is a good thing. And the relationships that have stayed constant through the years mean so much.
Leading up to the trip, I wondered how much of our old hometown Selah would remember. I knew she’d remember people, but it was the places I wasn’t so sure of. Would she recall familiar routes we used to drive? Places we frequented? Certain activities? Not that it’s been super long since our move, but still… toddler brains are pretty fascinating.
The answer is a simple ‘yes’. She has not forgotten. She remembered our old house. We pulled into the parking lot at church, and she reminded us, “THIS IS WHERE I GO!” But my favorite moment would have to be when we pulled into one of our old favorite spots. We used to go to Palafox Pier several times a week. We even spent our last New Years there in the back of our minivan, with a picnic spread and a movie. We’ve been taking Selah there since she was born, strolling up and down Palafox with her little cow print stroller, until she was big enough to chase the pigeons.
Even in the midst of our pretty chaotic week’s visit, Palafox Pier still offered a great sense of comfort. It felt like we’d never left. And that was evident when Selah darted across the green, straight for the splash pad. She was fully clothed, and I was unprepared without her swimsuit, but she meant business. So we let her run and play and soak her outfit from head to toe, knowing it would make for some beautiful memories for her. And what the heck? It’s not like she’d get to visit the beach, so this would be the closest we’d get!
We couldn’t leave without one more debacle, though. It just wouldn’t be right, I guess. So upon heading back to the family’s house for our last night in town, wouldn’t you know we got rear ended. It wasn’t a HUGE deal, except the guy that hit us had no insurance, or a shirt or teeth for that matter, so we cut our losses and walked away. No one was hurt, thankfully, but our poor Honda will bear a constant reminder of our new “friend” in the form of his hunter green Ford Ranger paint transfer. That is, until she gets her bumper repainted.
We packed up the next morning, and bitter-sweetly said our goodbyes after a failed attempt at trying to convince Jeremy’s Grandma of an impromptu trip to good ol’ NC. Somewhere along the way, we decided to take a different route home, and so we drove to East Florida, and up the coast of Georgia before we stopped for the night in Savannah. Selah and I were both feeling a little iffy on the health side, but the beautiful Historic Savannah took our minds off of things long enough for a horse and carriage ride through the town. This stop was another highlight of my life as we watched our big girl lose her excited mind over staying in a hotel for the first time. She just reiterated, yet again, what a cool kid she is. She’s so much fun, and will always make the best of things. So while I sulked over not feeling so well, cancelled plans, and having to spend half of our vacation pumped full of Zofran, she embraced the thrill of a late night swim, vending machine snacks, elevator rides, and a big ol’ bed all to herself. She’s a definite perspective challenger.
We woke up the next morning and strolled along River Street, enjoyed some delicious coffee, some tourist attractions, and bid adieu to a week of lots of ups and downs.
All in all, a few kinks in the chain, but we’re grateful to have had a week away with each other. I love this little family of mine, and all of the other awesome links that love and support us. Through so much transition, and through every up and down and twist and turn of our life, there are a handful of friends, and a handful of family that have really stood by to offer endless grace, and help, and love and support. And THAT is what makes the kinks worth the trip. The quality time, and making memories, and watching family just continue to pour into Selah’s life (and ours) is what makes that place special to us.
The vomit, and bad weather, and the shirtless rear-ender may have overshadowed a “vacation” feel, but sometimes you just need a healthy dose of real life. And what better way to experience real life than in the company of family?