Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Going Home

Going Home

Two little words that can illicit a wide range of reactions. Joy, fear, curiosity, resignation, introspection, anticipation, trepidation; and the list of tion's goes on.

Of course if you never leave home then you don't have to deal with going home. Something that never crossed my mind when I made my escape move. (Take it from me, you can never escape home!! If you try it will just haunt you.)

I wasn't quite 18, and I had been the teenager from hell (Relatively speaking that is. You see our family is pretty goody-two-shoes as far as families go, so my post-pubescent angst was mild compared to some, but still traumatic for all in our own circles, including my personal circle which was definitely pear-shaped at the time.) when I left for a stint in the military in '72, literally just in time for Nixon's re-escalation of the Vietnam 'conflict'. (And if you still believe that all US troops were withdrawn by the following year in compliance with the Paris Peace Accord you haven't been paying attention!) Following that I ran off to the other end of the country (From home.) to do more military stuff as a civilian and, other than a short experiment which didn't work out, haven't gone back for more than a week at a time since.

At first visits home very much highlighted that old adage you can't go home again, (Though it's older than most people think, what with Heraclitus writing No man ever steps into the same river twice way back somewhere around 500BC.)

But regardless, old adages are old adages because they're true. Within a few years of leaving, home was no longer the home I carried in my heart. Unlike that home, people, places and communities had moved on, so when I did make trips home, (Admittedly something I did very infrequently in the early years.) home wasn't there anymore. Plus I had changed over the years as well (whew! About time!) so the me I carried inside wasn't the me I was. (Make sense? No? Don't worry about it. I'm not sure I make sense either.)

But a funny thing has happened over the past 10 years or so, about when I started getting home more frequently. I got used to all the development and changes (The house I grew up in, and left from, was three houses ago now.) and the southeastern Michigan of today didn't feel quite so alien to me anymore, in fact it started to become the norm.

Naturally my brother and sister, both still in high school when I left, both still little kids far outside my grownup realm at that time, well - grew up. At first I had no idea who they were anymore, how to interact with them. Of course they had the same issue with me, this stranger that once lived in the same house. But time and gradual exposure has taken care of that now too. I've reached the point where I know who they are as well as who they were. I'm used to them, comfortable with them, again.

As for parents? Well, I'll always be their kid. Always anxious to please. Always seeking approval. But we've grown into each other. Though the child in me never goes away completely, the person in me now comes through and interacts with the person in them. (More so with Mom since Dad died some years ago now which kind of froze him in place in terms of my personal relationship.)

I don't usually take, let alone publish, family type photos, but this trip I made a resolution to try it for once. There will be some blurring of faces because - well - if they don't mind their faces out there in public they are free to do it themselves, but I don't feel I have the right to out them myself.  Anyway - what's a family get-together without food and paper plates!!!

So anyway, that was a rather long winded way of saying that over the past few years going home hasn't carried near the angst and trepidation and disappointment for me that it might have in the more distant past.

In fact this time I chose to make the trip even though the pressure to do so was pretty minimal. After all, everybody understands that 1400 miles one way is an awful long ways to go for an afternoon family cookout, especially when past reunions have been focused more around extended weekend campouts. And I'd been there just last year for one of those weekend reunions, and the year before too, and to add a few more pennies to my good-son-visits-often account, only a couple months ago the family matriarch was down for a week's visit at our place in Central Texas. So, in the absence of those sorts of pressures, I guess the only explanation left is that I really wanted to go.

My nephew has a pretty terrific place for family gatherings. In fact he was married in that barn back there. (Yep, he even agreed to move his classic John Deer out that day to make room!!)

At the last reunion there was a spirited and rather amazingly long drawn out (And eventually really tall!) game of Chinga on a table in front of the fireplace. This time someone came up with a supersized version of the game.

And, of course, the spectator sport was all about the inevitable crash.

Which ended up happening too fast for my electronic camera

To continue with the supersized theme, there was giant bubble blowing

Which turned out to be more of an adult thing. Modified childs-play I guess you could call it.
But there was plenty of father-son ball-tossing as well

And you can't have a backyard get-together without a bonfire! You just can't!!

A bonfire which we all dutifully gathered around, despite temperatures in the 80's, because that's what you do! (Though we did widen the circle significantly to escape the worst of the heat.)

One activity that surprised me, given family history that involves Grandma's back yard on the lake, wild and overactive kids, sparklers, a burn, screaming, and Mom going into nurse mode, was the breaking out of the sparklers. (It was funny to find that we, those of us there for the incident at Grandma's, all remember the details slightly differently.) Of course the first to go for for the flaming sticks of mayhem was also the youngest.

But anytime you have fire and men in near-proximity - well - you know. This photo shows a full 75% of the male family members in attendance. Only the two oldest of the men refrained. (Hey! Someone had to stand by with the water bucket!!)

And this might be a photo of boy with sparkler, but I'm not entirely convinced that 7 year old boys don't have fire shooting out of their brains most the time anyways.

But eventually, reluctantly, the afternoon wore on to evening, then to night, and it was time to wrap up the party.
Except that what started out as a simple afternoon cookout turned into something bigger. Instead of dispersing to various homes after the party, virtually everybody there ended up sleeping at my brother's place that night, scattered around on beds and sofas and floors. (Once again, driving around with my own home on my back saves the day!!) and the next morning I found myself wandering their back 40 (actually a more modest 10) taking photos of the sunrise while waiting for others to stir and the promised group breakfast to get underway.

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