We had just finished construction on our quaint, rustic woodland abode when our first child, Keely Day was born. Nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains our humble home was surrounded by a 2,000-acre state nature preserve with no visible neighbors in sight. We adored our special spot on the map and we named it “Hummingbird Haven” after a sweet little cabin where we spent our honeymoon in the Smokey Mountains a few years earlier.
My hunk listened diligently to my “wish list” and went to work designing a structure to house our growing family. It’s amazing to think that he touched every piece of lumber that went into that home. Even a couple of years after we moved in, I’d stumble upon random sketches of rooflines scratched out on crumpled napkins and measurements scribbled down on hardware store sales receipts tucked deep in the pockets of his old work coats and pants. It always warmed my heart to come across remnants of such an exciting time in our lives.
Our parents, grandparents, uncles and dear friends pitched in on all aspects of building that home. From hoisting up roof beams to laying out the plumbing system, placing windows, building the wrap around covered decks and even preparing lunches and dinners for our hardworking volunteers along the way. It was truly a labor of love and I thought for certain we’d live there in that modest dream house of ours forever. We were building more than a home during that year. We were building our life.
We barely settled into our new abode before our precious firstborn decided to make her entrance into the world. She came to us 5 weeks early. I awoke in the middle of the night to discover that I was most definitely in labor and we abruptly came to the realization that ready or not, parenthood starts today.
After 22 hours of dreadfully hard work our very first bundle of heavenly bliss was laid upon my chest. For the first time in my life on June 14, 2001, I felt the weight of the world in my arms.
I heard the universe breathe with every inhalation and exhalation our daughter made before us that night. An incredibly alert, healthy, ever-so-dainty, 5 pound reflection of God’s love awoke a sleeping space within my soul, so primal and so connected to the human spirit that the words do not exist to adequately express the way it changed my outlook on the world. It was as though warm rays of a newborn sun burned away a fog on the horizon of my life. For the first time, I could see with immaculate clarity an undying promise of purpose in my existence on this planet. This teensy child ushered me into an awakening of intention that has subsequently influenced every major decision and action I have made since that miraculous moment in time, 16 years ago today.
Yes. It all sounds pretty dramatic, pretty deep. And it was. It still is. As a matter of fact, I’d say it’s about as dramatic and as deep as any human experience can possibly be. At least that’s how it feels for me.
Joyfully, we brought our bundle home to Hummingbird Haven a few days later. And together as a newly formed family of three we began making memories in our new home.
One morning about week or so after Keely was born, the enchanting scent of Lilac blew through our bedroom window. My hunk purposefully planted that beautiful bloom in just the right spot. He has always been thoughtful in that way. I quickly learned from him that a lovely scented blossom wafting on the spring breeze, filling a space with the intoxicating aroma of earthen sweetness is one of the most satisfying and simple pleasures we can experience. I remember lying there in bed with our newborn that day, trying again and again and again to nurse this tiny little human who seemed barely strong enough to blink, let alone drink. I was overcome with emotion. A tear fell from my eye and landed directly atop her absolutely bald, tender, silky smooth noggin. After some time, some dedication, some practice and some more tears (mostly mine) we finally found our mother-daughter rhythm over the following weeks and my fears dissolved into gratitude, and all was right with the world. To this day I can’t catch a sniff of Lilac without reminiscing on that precious moment.
Throughout that summer and into the fall we spent quiet mornings sipping coffee on the deck and admiring our sleeping cherub. How could we make something so delicate, so perfect in every way? Countless afternoons and evenings we took walks through the woods, our newborn baby lovingly wrapped in the sling close to my heart. That first winter as a family of three we lived on chili, PB&J’s, hot chocolate and love. We learned to trust our instincts in spite of our fears. We learned to be parents.
A couple of years passed and our first baby became the big sister of the family. Again, we invested our time and love and togetherness into creating a new-fangled method of madness to accommodate the arrival of yet another treasured family member, our second baby girl. The changes, the excitement, the transition from a family of three to a family of four all happened within the loins of our humble, dearly loved home. It was like our protective shell, our haven of peace. We were proud to bring our babies home to that space. It served us so well during those years.
When our youngest daughter was just growing into toddlerhood and Keely was just entering into the preschool years, life changed drastically for our little family. Like many families often do at some point in life we found ourselves at a crossroads. To put it frankly, our financial flow sucked, long-term careers in our area were scarce and our joyful, peaceful lifestyle was now fleeting. We needed financial stability and the opportunities were dwindling, along with our hope for the future wellbeing of our family and our patience with one another. Suffice to say, we were in a funk. It was a heavy weight on our little family, on our marriage. Our hearts broke a thousand times that year. But we knew it was time to come together just like we had always done before. It was time to make some major life changing decisions before it was too late for us. We couldn’t let that happen. The thought of leaving our sacred space at Hummingbird Haven sickened us. We physically built that home from scratch. How could we even consider leaving the only home our family had ever known?
Well. We did. Opportunity knocked. We opened the door. We took a chance. And we left. Not only did we leave, we went far, far away. Like 15 hours away. And it wasn’t easy. Looking back, it was the hardest thing we’ve ever done. Making that decision was painfully frightening. So frightening in fact, we decided to hang on to our precious abode for the first six months after we moved away because we feared that letting go of it might feel like the equivalent of losing a family member.
Only it wasn’t like that at all.
You see, we moved our family into a strange house, in a strange town, in a strange state over 800 miles away from the only home we had ever known. But guess what happened?
Our little Keely Day still collected itty-bitty stuffed animals and she still demanded that we fill her tub with massive amounts of bubbles during bath time. She still liked her toast slightly burnt and she still screamed at her younger sister for drinking her milk too loudly. My hunk still loved planting flowers. He still made us breakfast on Saturday mornings and he still had the best sense of humor of anyone I’ve ever known. Our littlest daughter still snuggled up next to me every evening and softly rubbed my earlobe until she dozed off to dreamland. I still scolded the girls for eating Cheerios in my bed, we still read storybooks at the end of each day and I still brushed the tangles out of their hair in the mornings while they screamed bloody murder. We still ate chili and PB&J’s and sipped hot chocolate. We still lived on love. So basically when we moved away we all learned something really important.
Home is family. Family is home. It’s that simple.
And so six months after we moved away from Hummingbird Haven, we peacefully and confidently made the choice to let it go forever. That was 10 years ago and since then we’ve lived in 2 different states, 5 different houses and we even survived living through a short (thank God) nightmarish stint in an extended stay hotel room.
Because we realized that it doesn’t really matter who built our house or how emotionally attached to it we had become. It didn’t matter how many years we lived there and it didn’t even matter how many wonderful memories we made there. It didn’t matter how many birthdays were celebrated, how many perennials my hunk plugged into the ground or how many nights we spent on the porch swing staring up at the stars above. Sure, all of those things are beautiful and wonderful and we will forever have gratitude for that life experience and for all of those treasured souls who made it possible for us. We’ll hold space in our hearts and minds for those cherished memories from now until the day we move on from this realm to the next. But what really matters is that we are together. Right now. Right here.
We started building our home over 25 years ago when we were just a couple of high school sweethearts falling in love. And on this very day 16 years ago, our home got a little bigger with the birth of our first child, Keely Day. And over the years our home grew two more times with the subsequent births of our cherished daughter, Teagan and our adoring son, Jasper. My people, their favorite foods and songs, storybooks and games, their mundane routines and their short tempers, their obnoxious behaviors and their unconditional love for one another… That is home.
Home is family. Family is home. It’s that simple.