Tuesday, April 11, 2006
I went up to visit my parents for a long weekend this past weekend. I went up after school on Thursday, and I didn't get back until yesterday afternoon. I grew up on 20 acres of the most beautiful land on all of God's green earth. My parents built on family land next to the old homeplace in the rolling, green hills of the piedmont in North Carolina. The Whitakers have deep roots there. Every season is beautiful at my home, but the place really shows off in the spring. Everything is blooming and deeply and lushly green, and there are butterflies. I like butterflies. It's impossible to describe how lovely it is, so I just won't try.
There is just something about going home for me. When I get off I-40, and I start driving through Kernersville on 150, I can feel my shoulders just start to relax. I roll down the windows and smell the spring, night air of home. It's such a familiar smell, the smell of the land where I was born and raised. It's a smell that's been in my nostrils since before I could speak the word "smell." As I drive, I pass places thick with memories for me. I pass the spot where my brother fell asleep at the wheel and we did a 360 in the middle of the road. I pass the tobacco fields where my 3rd cousin still likes to plow a few rows with his mule team. I pass the houses of neighbors whose sons played PTA basketball with my brother. I pass the school where my father and grandfather went. I remember the familiar smell of warm, sweaty horse, and I can sit on the pasture fence where I sat in the late summer evenings, watching the horses graze as the sun went down. Everywhere I turn, there is memory. This is my home.
I have been a tumbleweed since the day I said "I do," in our backyard under the trees. In 5 years of marriage, I have not lived in any place long enough to feel like I belonged there. Even Alabama, where we have lived for three years, has never been home. I knew about a year after we moved here that we might be leaving. I haven't truly settled in. Home is where you belong to me, where people know you and remember you from when you were a child, where they know your family, where you keep most of your best and worst memories of life. Oak Ridge, NC is the last place that I've had that. It is the only place on earth where I feel myself relax just by setting tire or foot on familiar ground. And I realize how much I miss it whenever I go there and whenever I leave. I am a girl with roots, and it stresses me out more than I think I even realize that I haven't been able to plant them anywhere. It's just plain hard for a girl with roots to wander around with them hanging out, unable to plant them and feel them nourished with good soil and good water.
When I go home and leave again, I realize a little of how Abraham must've felt, leaving his family and friends and everything familiar to follow God's call. If its this hard for me, what must it have been like for him? I know there have to have been days when he just didn't feel like it was worth it. But he pressed on anyway. We have a lot in common, Abraham, Sarah, and I. I'm glad he's a forefather I can relate to.
On this trip to visit my parents, I got a little closer to the soil than I usually do. This time around, my father and I planted a tree together. After my miscarriage, my doctor sent me a booklet on grieving a pregnancy loss. It suggested planting a tree in memory of the child that died, and I thought this was a good idea. Since my home is the one constant piece of soil in my life, I asked Daddy about it, but he forgot to go out and get one. I mentioned it again when I was up in NC, and Dad went out and got me a tree. He picked out a flowering Japanese cherry tree. It is the kind of tree that we had our engagement photo made in, and that is why he picked it. I included a picture of that tree.
Dad decided to plant the young tree in the middle of the field next to the driveway. He said he did this so we could see it first thing when we came to visit. Dad dug the hole, and he showed me how he knocked the soil off the root ball so that the roots could have access to the field soil and water. He filled in the hole, and then we bedded the little tree down with pine straw. That was the hardest part for me. I patted down that pine straw, and the baby's death felt so final to me. I rubbed the tree's leaves between my fingers over and over again. I was amazed at how green and alive they were.
A young tree is so full of life and promise. It is a reminder that life does go on. I didn't get to have a funeral when my baby died. This was better. There is a tree growing in Oak Ridge for my little child, and God gently rocks it to sleep every night with His soft breezes. It will grow and grow, and it will bud and bloom, and hopefully one day I will have children that will climb in its branches. And when they do, I will smile, and I will remember.