Homecoming

I’ve been thinking a lot about my childhood home. Not the one in Texas — we left there when I was three months old. And not the first one my parents bought when they moved to Florida – I have no idea how long we lived there, and I have no memory of it. I’m also not thinking of the one that we moved into when I was 9, a palatial space that my father designed himself.

No, I’m thinking of the one in between, the one on Pretty Pond, just off Pretty Pond Road. It took a ride along a quiet road, past orange groves and a burgeoning development – now long packed with homes – and a left turn onto a long, private drive to get there. And once there, it was paradise. Idyllic. An escape from the rest of the world, the place where I got my hands dirty, quite literally, in grass and dirt, but also figuratively in creative projects.

I built worlds for my toys, including the Barbie dolls that were popular in the ‘80s, but mostly stuffed animals. Teddy bears and their various animal friends. I sorted and resorted cards featuring all sorts of animals, learning random facts about flying squirrels and koalas. I drew pictures and devised tales about the sparkling plastic jewelry, claiming the pink round pieces were real, they were rubies. And like every little girl, I played dress-up, donning my mother’s pearls and simple gold bangles, trying my best to fit into her miniature heels.

I told myself other stories, too. Stories about escape and finding a prince charming. Stories about not being good enough, not being smart enough, not having enough friends.

But what is “enough,” really? What bar was I trying to reach?

Despite those limitations I placed on myself, overall, this place — this home on an acre on lilly-pad-covered Pretty Pond, complete with a guest house that never saw guests but was sometimes a play spot for my sister and me — has become the kind of place I aspire to be. Somewhere close but not too close. Somewhere where I can get my hands dirty, this time not in the dirt mounds where the pool was being dug or from getting in the grass with a golden retriever puppy.

No, to get my hands dirty planting flowers like my mother once did. Vegetables, too. Pruning back bushes and raking leaves. A dog – or two – running through that giant yard. Making noise, that bright type of noise that shatters the silence and says, “There is happiness here.”

I am grateful for the homes and the years that came later. But none of them had the tranquility of this place. The energy that comes with such a place – is beckoning me. A place where I can clear my head and create without worrying about any sort of perfection. But what’s that?

Be at ease there. Be held there. Be.

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