Home on the Range

I’m a lousy traveler. Two Sundays ago, as I was about to head out the door to go to St. Louis for the conference I was attending, I collapsed in a pathetic heap on my foyer floor. “I don’t want to go,” I whimpered. As usual, I had made terrible packing decisions. Colin brought down a smaller bag for me, helped me repack my things more sensibly, and sent me on my way with a few reassuring words. Flying makes me nervous. I get lost all the time. Hotels give me the heebie jeebies. I’m always petrified that bedbugs are infesting my suitcase. I don’t like being away from my family for extended periods of time.

Once I was in St. Louis, everything was fine. I got to see a little bit of the city before the conference got under way. I heard inspiring plenary speeches by former Secretary General of the U.N. Kofi Annan and Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, or “Dr. Q,” a neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins, who began his life in this country as an illegal immigrant tomato picker from Mexico. I attended sessions which gave me a renewed sense of purpose and mission. Most importantly, I rediscovered the heady, intoxicating, and hypnotic power of HGTV in my hotel room in the evenings. Although I’ve never tried it, I’m fairly certain that crack cocaine couldn’t possibly have anything on House Hunters International. I’m still having withdrawal symptoms.

On Friday as I headed back to the airport with my colleagues, the weather was looking ominous and I wasn’t at all confident that we were going to make it out of St. Louis. We managed to safely fly out before tornadoes shut down the airport. It was past midnight when I finally got home. What pure and unmitigated joy to peek into my children’s bedrooms and to see them fast asleep, and then to fall into my own bed for the first time in almost a week. For the first time in three weeks we’re all together, under one roof, and will be for another month and a half except for a few days here and there. Bliss.

I picked right up where I left off. It was a typical weekend. We went to the last soccer games of the season for the two youngest kids, a pool party, a graduation party, church…I did loads and loads of laundry. I nagged my kids to clean their rooms. I helped my daughter with her homework. But all of these ordinary events were burnished with a glow of comfort and familiarity. As I was driving back home from the airport late on Friday the song Home on the Range came into my head. This was one of four songs I would sing over and over to my oldest son on infinite loop back in the days when he was a sadistic baby who would torture his mother by refusing to ever sleep. It was a song I had grown tired of, having sung the same old tune night after night after night. This evening I sat on my deck and sang it again along with the sweet trill of the birds:

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