(the first in a series of posts, 40 things I've learned in 40 years)
My siblings and I are getting tattoos when my brother comes to town this summer. We've settled on a hobo theme. Because we grew up everywhere and nowhere and that's really what connects us. We are hobos.
Not no more I'm not.
I've lived in my house for 16 years, I've been in my marriage for 18 years. Been here in St. Louis, contiguously, since fall of 1992. I'm trying really hard to practice stability in the Benedictine sense. I'm not necessarily stable, mind you. I practice stability. This is where I live, this is my marriage, my family, my school, my parish, my neighborhood, my house, my place.
I have a place.
I stay too long sometimes--it took me a long time to finally leave the school where my kids were attending, even when it was toxic to me and them and our happiness. But almost always, it is good to stick around. Stick it out. Keep trying to make it work. Be there. Be here.
It's made me realize, though, taking this vow, that now I'm the one who will be left behind. If I'm not doing the leaving, every two years in a new state, a new school, new faces and enemies and friends, then I'm the one standing here watching others walk away. I've noticed them leave my parish most of all--it doesn't have the same kinds of permanence, after all, you don't purchase a place in a church, you don't marry a church or give birth to it. I suddenly realize folks are gone. Oh.
And people will move away from my block and neighborhood. People will die--one of my neighbors died last week, in fact, someone I was keeping in the back of my head as a resource, someone who teared up when I told him the story of how I was trying to live. Someone who gave me the word "mitzvah" about what I was trying to do with my people. I'm standing here in my backyard, I hear his dog barking and his kids playing basketball, but he's gone away.
I know my stove's quirks. I sit on my back porch and read and hope for people to come home. I count the steps to my parents' house. I know what the smell of the brewery means for the weather to come. I listen to Jake breathe at night. Flowers come up in the spring, leaves turn their colors in the fall. I order the same number at the same Vietnamese restaurant. I hear the creaking of the steps and I'm comforted by this place, my place. I stay so people can find me. I stay so people can use me. I stay so people can always come home and find the same place, the same smells, the same essential sameness.
So much in life is up in the air. So much is a Soviet era numbers station on a shortwave radio, a frequency being kept open. So much is unknown and I can't bear it all. I have to have stability so my self does not slip away in the uncertainty of everything. And being stable, I can be that rock for others.
Still at heart, I'm a gypsy, I'm a hobo--Irish diaspora runs strong in my veins. So there are beautiful spring afternoons like today when the ache to leave is so strong that I feel it like a sneeze behind my facial bones. I want to run, run, run--but I stay.