home. amid a host of tugs and pulls and squeaks from far corners.
dispatch from 60091 (in which, except for invasion of colonies of critters with matchstick-sized legs, i attempt to nest in solitude, with a few elephant-sized distractions…)
i’ve waited 18 months for this. to have unpacked the mountain of moving boxes. to have tiptoed room-to-room, inhaling the musty scent of home. to be tucked up against my old maple table, with the morning sun draped across the slabs. my old chipped coffee mug at the ready, inches from the keyboard.
i’ve waited for the tick and tock of our grandpa’s clock. to hear the morning song of birds, my birds, my flocks, rising up and rolling in from the jungle that is my overgrown garden. i’ve waited and waited.
to be home, and going nowhere.
alas, it hasn’t exactly been a week of lolligagging and tossing back bonbons in a tub of bubbles.
the night before i zipped the last of the home-bound suitcases, back in 02139, i got word — make that, news flash — from my hilarious friend who spent the year here holding down the fort. she’d ducked into the wee bathroom off my writing room (the old garage, long ago turned into maid’s quarters, how apt that i now dwell there…), and there, dozing atop a feather bed of nibbled toilet paper bits, a nice fat chipmunk. only it wasn’t sleeping. it was, um, dead. and had chosen a basket filled with toilet paper rolls to be his final resting place.
she spared me pix of the kerplunked critter, and instead sent me a dramatic close-up of just how adept chipmunks are at making bedclothes out of the tissue paper with a purpose.
i considered myself fair-warned.
which is why, once half across the country, once the cat, the boy, the three fat suitcases and i were greeted at the baggage depot by my fair mama and ferried home, i tiptoed with trepidation into that wee room. i scanned for paw prints, wee paw prints, everywhere a furry thing might scamper. i scanned, too, for the caraway-seed-sized deposits they always leave behind.
i found them.
piled high and thick atop the baby blankets i had so neatly folded and tucked into a basket back in the corner. must have seemed the perfect lullaby land for all the baby chipmunks (and judging from the pile, there was a bumper crop of baby chipmunks). i did not scream. i merely long-jumped from the room, slammed the door, and decided to deal with it in the morning.
long story, short: $500 later, my new best friend joe, the jesus-believing critter control apostle, arrived on the scene, armed with coyote urine, ammonia crystals and wheelbarrows of cement. not a poison to be found, bless his benevolent heart. just some serious deterrents for re-entry to the chipmunks’ underground metropolis, the one they dug in vast array beneath the concrete slab upon which the old garage was built.
that’s the story of the first-floor critters. upstairs, in all the drawers where soaps and cottonballs were stored (note the past tense), another branch of the Rodentia family (the ones with long skinny tails and appetite, apparently, for european scrubs) had made themselves quite at home. why, it was a veritable carnival of critters, all with matchstick legs and the itty-bittiest pit-a-pats the world has ever known. they’d run amok undetected for lord knows how many months. (they don’t exactly blow trumpets announcing their arrival.)
and, oh, they served as such a rousing welcome committee. (i was roused, all right!)
but all that, truly, fades in the narrative arc of this long week.
the heart of the matter is that one long dark night this week i sat alone in my long-awaited bed fielding phone calls from my firstborn who was spending the night in an ER 1,000 miles away, getting IV painkillers pumped into his veins (neck and head pains, all tied back to a broken neck in the eighth grade, when he somersaulted over his handlebars swerving from — get this — a chipmunk who’d dashed across his bike trail).
and that’s only the half of it. my little one, the brave one who boarded a plane to germany a mere 48 hours after whirling in the door, a trip he’d long awaited, a trip for which he’d spent the year studying with his german tutor, he’d gotten sick as a dog on the flight across the atlantic, and 24 hours after de-boarding the plane was still upchucking in his new german bathroom. i was getting emails from the teacher, updating me on just what shade of green he was sporting, hour by hour.
when you are 11, and 4,538 miles from home, and you’ve been tummy-rumbling in volcanic proportions for a good 36 hours, you really truly desperately deeply through-and-through want one of two things: a.) to catch the next plane home, or b.) to have your mama sky-dive from the clouds.
thus, you do what any thinking person would do: you pick up the phone, and dial in your request.
and your mother, on the far side of the globe, hearing the whimper in your voice, imagining just how wretched it must feel to have wretched straight across the ocean, she kicks into high mama gear: she drops to her knees, points eyes heavenward, and unfurls the litanies of prayer reserved for just such moments.
she smacks herself upside the head for letting such a little guy go in the first place. she calls on angels, saints, random trumpet players, anyone and anything who might come charging to the rescue, to barrel up the hill and storm the ramparts.
she tries everything she can humanly think of. she pounds out “this i believe” treatises, reminding the little fellow just how brave he is, and just how valiantly he has conquered a host of uphill battles: the sleepover on wrigley field, the two-week summer camp in the deep dark mosquito-infested woods of michigan, the whole dang city of cambridge, massachusetts. heck, he even weathered a whomping case of scarlet fever and pneumonia when he was just a wee young thing.
the boy can do it.
he is, i often remind him, the egg that wouldn’t take no for an answer. while all the other eggs could not make it out of the roundhouse and chug up the mountain, that little guy was the one egg who made the climb, who was born in a shaft of pure white light at 3:22 one hot august morning, to a mother who defied logic and medical tomes, clocking into the maternity ward at 44 years, eight months and five days old.
on the off-chance that my sweet boy is tucked under the puffy covers in munster, reading these words from glowing screen, i have five words and a comma for you: you can do it, sweetie.
i love you higher than the moon and wider than the oceans. you have angels, saints, mamas, papas, grandmas and grandpas, uncles, aunts and a big brother all pulling for you. we’ll make sure you are pumped up with dramamine for the swift ride home. and we’ll be waiting at the airport with double-time hearts and wide-open arms. we’ll pull you to our thumping hearts, and keep you home all summer. we’ll even ply you with fresh-squeezed lemonade and oatmeal-raisin cookies. we’ll let you stay up late and sleep till lunchtime, if that’s the way you like it. we’ll whip up a welcome home parade, and make you grand marshal and chief potentate. i won’t even make you pluck your dirty socks off the floor. (not for the first hour, anyway….)
you will have triumphed over the latest in your long litany of championship makers. you are some boy, you glorious sweet soul, you who always says, “yes! i want to see the world!”
it’s right before your eyes. take it in, sweetheart. then hurry home. so we can all chase chipmunks hither and yon and all around the garden, one big happy reunited family. home sweet home, at last. oh, sweet lord, at last.
so that’s the news from the homecoming committee. shoulda known that you can’t go away for 10 long months and not expect a bump or grind upon return.
question of the week: what words of wisdom would you impart to a wee lad far from home, and weathering a whopper case of travel bugs…..
Oh poor honey! He’ll remember this trip fondly and probably forget the barfing, but still….!!
So glad you’re back. Now that the critters are gone, I must visit. 🙂
door’s open. chairs are waiting. i’ve been rather a manic cleaner in my state of worry, so summer porch is power-washed and ready to go, cleared of all critters there too. i dive into a big writing project monday, but always time for tea breaks. xoxox
That poor child! I’d tell him exactly what you did, remind him of his strength and courage and resilience. And I’m sending him some extra get well hugs via this reply. He even has cyber moms hoping for a speedy recovery!
Bless your cyber mama heart!!!!
Sent from my iPhone
That goes for me, too … prayers for both your boys, and you, of course. Isn’t re-entry always this way? Dang it. Ask the Professor to hold you extra close, for all of us. Loads of love xoxo.
The Professor isn’t home yet. i’ve weathered all this solo. i thought the solitude — the longest i’ve had since i had my first baby 20 years ago tomorrow — would be bliss. HA! so much for thinking i got a nice calm week to settle in. latest missives from germany look like clear skies might have moved into my little boy’s heart, so i am suddenly overjoyed to be home in my nest, without furry companions (save for the fat cat who is beside himself with joy to be on the prowl again in his jungle garden….)
Oh, so glad T is improving. Forgot B isn’t back …
Professor gives this story and BAM an A plus!
Dear Mr. Tedd,
Although your trip got off to a rather rocky start, my hope is that your adventure was worth it all. You’re much braver than I’ll ever be. And, yes, you will see the world. pjv
just found this, and while i wish i’d written it, and while it feels like something that would spew from my heart, it is just as much a gift to copy and paste it here. from anne sexton. i hope you find it as lovely as i did….
by Anne Sexton
There is joy
in the hair I brush each morning,
in the Cannon towel, newly washed,
that I rub my body with each morning,
in the chapel of eggs I cook
in the outcry from the kettle
that heats my coffee
in the spoon and the chair
that cry “hello there, Anne”
in the godhead of the table
that I set my silver, plate, cup upon
All this is God,
right here in my pea-green house
and I mean,
though often forget,
to give thanks,
to faint down by the kitchen table
in a prayer of rejoicing
as the holy birds at the kitchen window
peck into their marriage of seeds.
So while I think of it,
let me paint a thank-you on my palm
for this God, this laughter of the morning,
lest it go unspoken.
The Joy that isn’t shared, I’ve heard,
“Welcome Morning” by Anne Sexton, from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton. © Mariner Books, 1999. Reprinted with permission.
I LOVE the Anne Sexton poem. Thanks for sharing that joy. More prayers here that both your boys bounce back from their miseries. And a chipmunk memory. After my dad died, my sister and I cleaned out his laundry room storage area. We did this with some trepidation because we knew chipmunks (and who knew what else?!) had ventured into the house before. We moved an old rolled up rug off of the top of a dresser and all of a sudden there was a cascading clatter. We both screeched. Or maybe screamed. No critters. Just a gazillion sunflower seeds. Some industrious critter had squirreled away provisions in the folds of the old rug. My sister and I laughed like banshees for really longer than was warranted. But we were just so overjoyed that we were dealing with sunflower seeds and not varmints.
Oh … LOVE the poem! It DOES sound like you, bam.
P. S. I trust the ‘no trespassing’ sign is now posted to alert Chip ‘n Dale and Pixie & Dixie (and other assorted wildlife). Tell Turkey Baby he’s been promoted from garden stalker to security guard. xoxo
xoxoxoxox ! he’s on the prowl, my happy jungle cat. i do believe i saw him feasting on a picnic in the backyard the other afternoon, but i chose against close inspection. xoxo