July 20, 2020

To Own Something

Sophia's 7-year-old whine pierced the momentary silence.


Baby Luna mimics her older cousin with a babbling scream.

Luna smirks with pride at the sound of her own voice. She grabs the toy and screams as she quickly toddles down the hallway. Her brother Jackson stands with a scowl, protesting his cousin's claim on the toy in question. Somewhere deep behind the chaos of my niece's home lies a hum of familiarity and comfort for me.

Shelli, my niece, has 4 kids of her own, Brianna age 21, who lives on her own, Zachary age 18, Joshua age 16, and Sophia age 6. Recently, Shelli and her husband David took in my daughter's children, Jackson and Luna. My sister Carrie, and her husband Randy, who are Shelli's mother and stepfather, are living in the home too, along with another cousin, Charley, who is starting college locally. Then there's Joshua's girlfriend Iley who is here half the time as well. That brings the grand total of occupants in this home to 11 1/2.

Sometimes I feel uprooted and profoundly detached from the world. I anguish over the loneliness of having no place that feels like home. I ache for a place where I belong. I wish I could feel as if I belong here, but know I don't. I am just a passing visitor, that "fun aunt" that pops in with an armload of gifts and stories from the road. I've taught them all to expect nothing from me because they never know when I will come again.

7-year-old Sophia seems to grasp this. She knows I come and go, sending gifts from the road, and knows at some point I'll come back to her again. My grandson Jackson understands this too. Having just celebrated his 6th birthday, he is beginning to grasp the comings and goings of loved ones. His parents separated and neither are able to take care of him and his sister, so the kids have landed here. Fortunately, they fit right in and the family loves them both immensely. Shelli is the center of our family, whether she likes to admit it or not. A shining star of love, kindness, and gentle acceptance, we all simply orbit around her, drawn in by her natural gravity.

As their grandmother, I felt compelled to accept responsibility for them. But at Shelli's insistence, and as a family, we decided this was best.

"You underestimate the importance of being Bootsie (my grandma name). They need you to be their grandparent, not their full-time parent. If they are here, they get a routine, other kids to play with, and a greater support system. We're already raising kids here! A couple more just won't change much."

Shelli always makes sense. She always seems to see the things I don't.

For now, this is as close to having a home as I'm going to get. My family is here. This is their home. But not really a place for me. The hugs and kisses are here waiting, whenever I come to get them. Part of me wishes I could settle here, but I know I can't.

I'm not complaining, because this is the life I created for myself. Being unattached and free to roam was what I wanted, and still want. But like everything, it comes with a price. One cannot have freedom and attachment. One cannot live on the road and still live in a home. One cannot be free and still be owned. And to own something is to be owned, make no mistake.

Do I want a house with some land? Do I want a place that's mine to call home? Do I want to lose some of my freedom for a place to set down roots? Is this a passing fancy, or is it time to start settling in? Am I ready to trade my burdens? Lonesomeness for responsibility. . .

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