It’s been four and a half years since I’ve been back. Back in my husband’s childhood home. Back to where he began and, in a sense, where we began. This is his childhood home, however, it is without a doubt one of the most consistent “homes” I’ve had since meeting him 16 years ago and well, maybe ever. This home for me holds so many wonderful and painful memories too. 

Painful was seeing Chris through his kidney disease, dialysis, and recovery from his transplant. The loneliness and disconnection I felt during this time often led to crying as silently as possible on the upstairs bathroom floor wondering if I was strong enough. I was only 22 and I didn’t yet know how mentally and physically strong I actually was. 

Painful was watching Chris’s mother slowly waste away in her long and courageous fight with metastatic breast cancer that ultimately traveled to her brain. 

Painful was the last conversation I had with her in her bedroom just days before her passing. You see, my husband is an only child. His mother and I had some challenges in our relationship and I always felt a teensy bit of competitiveness. It frustrated me. (Bless my young self for what I had no clue about.) On this day, she had a period of lucidity and on this day, we had the most real conversation of our entire, short relationship. Her last and final words to me were this: “I know that Christopher will be okay because he has you.” To this day, these words have blessed my heart and allowed me to feel seen, respected, and appreciated for who I am and how I love and care for her son. 

And now, I am the mother of a son – an only child. She and I have more in common than I could have ever imagined when it comes to the love of our children. I imagine myself being ten times worse than she ever was to me when my son gets to the stage of dating. Thank God I’m not there yet and I still have some time to process how I will be during this inevitable time. 

Wonderful memories include sitting around the dinner table in a way that I had never experienced in my life. They ate late and slow. They talked for what seemed like hours after we finished our meal. I learned to savor the experience of mealtime. This is one of my most favorite past times to this day. Although, I admit it’s difficult to find those who can endure without being called by the dirty dishes or the desire to move to a different room. The Smiths are experts at this and it is one of the treasures of any family gathering with them. 

Wonderful are the memories that I have of Maxx here too. Maxx moved from Potsdam, NY with me in the summer of 2005 when I officially moved to Maine. He lived with Chris’s parents while I went off to live at a summer camp and worked as a wilderness trip leader and counselor to pre-teen girls. What an adventure that was. Some of the stories from this time I’ve referenced in Maxx’s Story. 

Wonderful are the many gatherings we’ve been able to enjoy together since we met and I was inducted into this great family. 

Wonderful are the endless treasures that this house holds, each with a story and richness that I hope we can pass down from generation to generation. After all, things are just things unless we assign them their unique, special meaning. 

I was instantly struck by emotion upon entering the house. I didn’t anticipate this and it took me by surprise. It’s like I could feel her presence and hear her saying “welcome home.”

As I sit here and write this in Papa’s (Chris’s Dad) recliner, I look over at Charlie sitting in the chair that I nursed him when he was born. It’s the very same chair that Chris was nursed in by his mother, Katie. I am struck by another wave of intense emotion. This time it’s as if she is sitting here with me saying “isn’t he lovely?” with a smile so big and wide her heart could burst. 

Chris’s mom never got the fortune of meeting our son, her only son’s only child. Her courageous fight was lost just 21 months prior to his arrival. I’ve often thought of how different life would look if she was still here. I’m sure I’d be perpetually annoyed in some way by her constant involvement. 

What a perspective changer this is, huh?!? I can say that I wish I had that opportunity: to be annoyed because someone else loved my child as equally as I. 

Dear reader, what is currently happening in your life that has you annoyed or wishing it was different? Is there another perspective you could search for in order to find appreciation for the way it is? Sometimes all we need to do is ever so slightly tilt our gaze to see a completely different picture, to feel different emotions, to act with a little more patience, grace, and humility. 

In this house we breathe new life, but we never forget nor seek to erase the living that’s been done and the legacy of love that built this home. 

Thank you for sitting with me while processing this special and emotional journey. 

With Peace and Love Always, 

Jessica ✌💗