I just got back from ten days in northern Wisconsin (folks from northern Wisconsin always specify the northern because southern Wisconsin is cities and farmland, while the north is woods and lakes and white-tailed deer and air so fresh your lungs practically say “thank you” with each exhale).
I grew up there, and my parents still live there. It’s beautiful and snowy and peaceful and just generally the most wonderful place on earth, even if it costs $8 for a couple of organic apples and the Internet probably won’t work, like at all, no matter what you do.
There are things we only do or feel or get away with at home, aren’t there?
Here’s my list.
1. You revert to your birth-order behavior
I’m a bossy firstborn. In my everyday life it makes me an efficient go-getter.
At my childhood home? I seem to forget all the social niceties I’ve learned in adulthood, and I just drive my sisters insane.
2. Your childhood eating habits come right back
In California we have green smoothies for lunch several days out of the week. At home in Wisconsin I had macaroni and cheese eight times in ten days. The other two I had pumpkin pie. Carrrrrrrrrrrrbs.
3. You remember things you didn’t know you’d forgotten
My dad and I cracked ourselves up remembering a former hockey coach of mine who used to explain drills while skating them. He meant well, but my teammates and I couldn’t understand a word because half the time he was on the other side of the ice arena and the other half he was facing away from us.
“Got it?” he’d yell. “Go!” Then we’d all skate off in disarray and he’d start yelling about how we never listened.
Hadn’t thought about that in probably twenty years, but sitting in my parents’ living room it all came back.
4. You’re strangely nostalgic for random objects
At my adult home I don’t well up with tears up over dinner plates. In Wisconsin? They still have the farm plate with the red barn and the horses I ate on as a kid and I’m sure it’s chock-full of BPA but OF COURSE my son can eat off of it. Don’t ever throw it away, k?
5. The rest of the world seems blissfully far away
We talk politics a bit, goals for the coming year, hopes and dreams and all of that.
But when the backyard trail looks exactly like it did when I walked it as an eight-year-old, it’s easy to feel like all the pressures of everyday life are a bajillion miles away.
6. You spend at least one full day in pajamas
In my defense, I did put snow pants over them to go sledding.
7. The best conversations are unplanned
We lost power one night, and ended up lounging in front of the fireplace eating macaroni and cheese my sister made in water she melted out of snow. We put the kids to bed (“It’s like camping!” we promised), and lit candles. In the dark, draped on various pieces of furniture, we talked for hours.
Around 11pm the lights came back on and the spell was broken. But the time was so sweet my brother-in-law vowed to flip the breaker switch next year himself.
8. You have at least one moment when you feel like reminding everyone that you are, in fact, an adult now
Oh, for the love, I know what compound interest is.
9. You realize how much you love your current life
There are a thousand things I love about northern Wisconsin, yet being back in the Midwest for two weeks also helped me realize anew how much I love where I am today.
Not everyone gets the joy and privilege of pastoring an incredible church. Few get to experience the crazy beauty of southern California on a daily basis. I only know a handful of folks who job share with their spouse like I do, experiencing all the ins and outs of daily vocational life in a way few couples can.
Sometimes we all need a little respite, to come back with fresh energy to a life we love.
10. You realize how grateful you are for your childhood home, the start that it gave you, and all the people in it
This Christmas Eve we filled up two pews in my childhood church. Our kids crawled around on the floor of the sanctuary, and my eyes filled with tears of gratitude.
A few pews in front of us sat the woman who mentored me in high school. On the other side of the room was someone who welcomed me and a band of ragged teenagers into her home each Sunday evening for Bible study. I saw people who changed my diapers in the church nursery and those who attended my high school graduation party.
These faithful, Christ-filled people are the reason I’m following Jesus today. My parents, who taught and modeled the faith (and still do – heading off on some new missionary adventures again this spring). My siblings, who helped me wrestle with deep questions. My Sunday School teachers, AWANA leaders, VBS volunteers, high school youth leaders.
Those things matter, you guys. Those people are rock stars.
It takes a village, and I had one of the very best.
Did you go home for the holidays? What did it teach you?