Enjoyed a beautiful drive back from Indiana yesterday. Ten hours of sunshine and a lovely sunset on the Natchez Trace Parkway. Oh, and I missed a deer by about 2 feet at 60 miles an hour, but that’s another story altogether…

It was good to be with family. Good to be with friends. I was enveloped in the familiar warmth of long hugs, loud laughter, a cozy bed, fleece jackets on a cool night by the pool, good sushi, red wine, comfortable silences, enlightening conversations, and hot coffee on the deck. I caught up with old friends, held my great-niece, visited with my mom, ate spinach and artichoke dip, hugged my kids’ friends and my friends’ kids, teetered in precariously high heels, got a necessary and eye-opening swift kick in the ass, listened to a Stevie Ray Vaughan tribute band on a cool summer night, and missed my husband tremendously.

It was good to be there.

It’s good to be back.

Until now, it was difficult for me to call Mississippi “home.” It seemed a betrayal of sorts. But here’s what I’ve discovered. Home is wherever my heart is. Cliched as it might sound, it’s true. Home is with Chris… wherever that might be. So when I texted Jenny last night to let her know I was “home,” I said it. “Home.” Quite simply, I am home.

The journey was different this time. I am learning how to bridge the difference instead of splitting it. I’m figuring out that a bridge is much safer, much friendlier, much more inviting than a chasm. A big, gaping hole is a pretty unattractive sight. And when you traverse it, it creates a unique set of challenges. You’re constantly looking for the next hand-hold, you’re working up a sweat, slipping on the rocks, cursing at the steep inclines, praying not to fall back down to where you started. When you cross a bridge, your hands are free for holding. It’s easy to talk because you’re not out of breath. The view is much clearer, much wider, much more expansive.

Sure, the trusses weaken periodically. And that’s when you call in the reinforcements. And you know what? The reinforcements always come. Because they use that bridge, too. They want it to be safe and welcoming and stable. It’s also vital for their journey.

The most powerful lessons about bridge building have come from my kids. From begging to return to Indiana to joining environmental clubs, junior historical societies, and creative writing groups, my kids have discovered that building bridges is much more appealing than crawling out of the canyon. They’re resilient, they’re adaptable, they’ve become fierce.

And check this one out: Freshman Starts Lacrosse Team at Starkville High School.

He’s starting a lacrosse club in Starkville. It’s not an easy task. He’s the new kid in a well-established town. There’s been some opposition, he’s had some setbacks. But he’s tenacious, that one. We’ve adopted the philosophy that “no” just means “I need more information” or “give me some time to chew on that for awhile.”

It’s been such a fun experience to watch Sam grow into himself. He’s now substantially taller than I am, his voice is going through that classic Peter Brady change, his sense of humor has slowly moved from on-the-edge-of-crossing-the-line to well-timed and witty.

We were exploring Mississippi’s state parks a couple of weekends ago and were on a 2-mile trail when some ominous rain clouds moved in. I was carrying the camera (sans case) and wondered out loud whether I should jog back to the car to keep the camera safe.

“Seriously, Mom?” Sam said. “We can all walk faster than you can jog.”

And then he demonstrated.

In imitation of me, he pumped his arms back and forth, adopted a tiny stride, and called over his shoulder, “Okay, guys, I’ll see you back at the car!” The rest of the Tribe kept walking on the trail and Sam started intentionally falling behind. “I’m just gonna go on ahead and keep the camera safe!” he called in his high-pitched mockery as we all walked past him. Arms pumping, legs baby-stepping, he kept calling out, “See you back at the car!” as he continued to increase the physical distance between us and him. “Don’t worry about me,” he called. “I’ll be fine! Just have to take care of the camera!”

Since he’s been drumming up interest in lacrosse, Sam has met a great cadre of friends. While telling us about them at the dinner table recently, he mentioned the names of some girls.

Mary Claire looked up from her salad with wide eyes. “You’re talking to GIRLS? GIRLS are interested in you?” Then she looked at me and rolled her eyes. “I don’t know why anyone would be interested in Sam. It’s not like he has abs or anything.”

Abs or not, I still think he’s pretty damn awesome.

(Photo courtesy of Bailey Brocato.)

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