"So, I'm supposed to just talk? I'm used to doing the interviewing, feels odd to be on the other side of the mike," I said, shaking my head and feeling strangely uncomfortable. “No questions to guide me?”
"Letting you free associate, one subject to the next, gives your followers a better sense of you. You know you better than we ever could so asking random questions doesn't give us you, the real you. That's who people want to know, that’s why they are buying your book in droves and that’s why Finding Home is on the best-seller list," Eric Robb, the producer explained. That’s why the book is going to be 'the' movie of 2021."
"Okay. Talking I can do."
"Just look at me. The camera will be behind where I'm sitting. Pretend we are having drinks and it's your turn to fill me in. Talk to me. It will be as if we picked up mid-conversation. Just don’t stop talking. We will edit it later. Ready? Here we go, in 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... and," he pointed at me.
It started the day my name changed from Abigail to Abbynormal. A kid in the hallway (at yet another new school) overheard a teacher telling my mom that I had an abnormally high IQ. All the kid heard was 'abnormal' and I was stuck with my new nickname for all of high school. Of course, it didn't help much that I'd never been one to color inside the lines, so to speak: what was outside the lines was far more fun to create. It was the one way I stepped off the path my folks had carefully laid out before me. Summer camps gave way to Dressage horses and a blue-ribboned wall encased excellent grades interspersed with tea dances at West Point. Around the bend, I was introduced to the 'right' people and attended yet more dance classes so that I wouldn't trip at my debut or afterparty at Tavern on the Green. After graduation, a direct line to ivy-covered walls at Vassar, then Brown as I would traipse over the bridge to Law School. Then I'd meet the prince of my dreams and ride off with him into the sunset.
Somewhere along the way, I took an unscheduled left turn and went my own way. I jumped over potholes, fell in the Thames, spent a night lost in the catacombs in Rome, and lived in a castle for a month. I had a grand and glorious love affair with a most spectacular gentleman that was just one of those things I simply enjoyed because I just knew it would not be a 'forever' thing, but still marvelous and devoid of regrets. I was a free-spirited soul and reveled in it. Mom and Dad eventually got over their great disappointment in me and decided I was my own weird duck and I should fly my own direction. And I did.
Every so often, I'd go home. Now, here's the thing. Home was family; not a place. We moved so often after my grandmother passed away that there was no homeplace. No roots. No exact same place to go home to as I rarely went to the same place twice. One Christmas, it might be Vermont or Chicago, another Thanksgiving it would be St Croix or Michigan. I would be going to the people and the place was just another place on a long list. I didn't have any sense of roots or being tied to a place; it was just another bus stop or airport. But, I never really understood.
Several husbands came and went. I raised my kids mostly on my own and we muddled through changing addresses almost as often as my parents had. When I ran out of ways to reorganize the furniture or places to put the Christmas tree, we'd move. Sometimes, just across town, but other times, we'd move across the state or even the country. My kids grew up as adaptable as I was and flew off with strong wing feathers. They never had a path set for them; they found their own quite well.
Once they'd gone off to far-flung nests, the itchy feet needed scratching and I meandered off to new places. I wrote, I made do, I eked out a living and just did my thing. All my 'stuff' was in storage and my worldly possessions were either in my backpack or in my head. Have laptop; can write anywhere. The 'baggage' I carried was relegated to a dusty back corner of my brain. Ancient history, and all that. The only person I had to rely on was me and I was happy with that.
Until I wasn't. Except that I didn't really know that, or perhaps, hadn't admitted that. Yet.
Once upon a time, (at the wrong time and the wrong place) I'd met a man who grew up on his family farm that had been in the family since the 1830s. He was firmly planted in small-town Michigan and while our worlds intersected for a time, the collision proved unwieldy and we went our separate ways as friends. I left Michigan to return to the east coast, firmly vowing never to return. Twenty years later we tripped over each other again and I discovered that the feelings we’d shared were still there, only now, they came off back-back-burner simmer and went to a full boil. After a time, he asked me to stay. To stick with him.
Stay. As in stay put. But not like 'stuck' in a bad way, more like as in grounded. (In a good way.) Now, granted, the wing muscles were a tad tired, and he was an incredibly special man even if we had grown up worlds apart and didn't always 'get' where the other one was coming from. But could I stay? Put, that is. I wasn't sure. I didn't know if I could. I didn't know how to do that really. Staying put meant relying on someone else as well as their being able to rely on me. I didn't have a good track record in the 'other half' department. My kids were thrilled. That helped, but they didn't define me anymore. Once again, I was more than the 'mom.' I was Abby. It was my normal in my weirdly abnormal way, I guess.
Frankly, I was scared to death. Fifty years old and I was terrified as I'd never been before. Not when I went off on my own. Not when I had kids or became a mother. Yes, that was scary, but this seemed bigger somehow. Don't know why, and it didn't really make much sense, but there you have it. This mattered in a whole new way. Yet, never one to hide from a challenge, I had to try because I wanted what I thought it could be. . .
I refocused, seeing Rob instead of memory. He was twirling a finger, telling me without words, to continue.
Before I knew it, one day I woke up and realized we'd been together for fifteen years. I'd been in the same place for over a decade. Me. It was the longest I'd been anywhere, ever. I used to get teased that no one ever used ink when adding me to an address book. I got my own page; it was easier that way! No more.
Now, everyone came to our house for holiday dinners. I realized that somewhere along the way, I had been rooted. Me. We had roots that were grafted to each other in ways I had never known possible.
The day that I had that big epiphany, I wandered around the house. It had come a long way from a living room with a 1960s orange shag rug and an old chenille blanket for a curtain. Now people said that walking in our front door was like walking into a hug.
Making coffee that morning, we both whirled around in our one-butt kitchen and never got in each other's way--our 'early morning kitchen dance.'
And I realized. I was home. Home in the biggest and grandest sense of the word. More than family, more than four walls, more than, well ... anything. I was home. I am home. The roots grew and became the tree, that family tree that is us.
Then my husband had a stroke.
The doctors wanted me to 'call the family together.' That being said in a deep, serious voice. I called our kids after seeing him, but I knew that he'd be okay. And he was, is. Woke all of us up, though. Those immortal feelings we all experience crashed into an immovable wall.
We navigated our new normal. Our coffee dance had cups crashing to smithereens on the kitchen floor. He played the drums a beat out of sync. We redefined how we did things, we changed the steps to the dance and put on different music.
We had the entire family home for Christmas. Every single member came home. Even the ones who'd never lived with us said they came home. They did. My husband and I cooked for twenty-some people and it went like clockwork. People were everywhere and you could quite literally see the roots of these people from all over the country, some of whom had just met for the first time, becoming entangled and the roots grew stronger. The picture of everyone (dogs included) all mixed up together, my husband holding his great-grandson and namesake in the middle, four generations strong, is priceless.
Each of us makes our own journey. Connections come and go, fade, or renew. At the innermost heart of it all, all families are very much the same even as they are remarkably different and unique. We each are on a journey to finding home.
"And cut. Now see, that wasn't so hard was it?" Rob asked.
"Honestly, I feel like I just tore my heart out. It was okay?" I asked, rethinking much of what I spewed forth.
"It was exactly what I wanted you to do. I wonder if you really get what you've done with your book? You made a big deal about how you really aren't any different than anyone else. The thing is, most of us, to use your word, 'muddle' our way through life and we don't take the time to either think about what we have or the steps we've taken along the way. We all sort of gloss over the important parts thinking them 'everyday' or mundane. They really aren't."
I smiled. "No, they really aren't. I mentioned staying put, sticking together. Those things? They are the glue. If things are falling apart, they are the duct tape that will hold them together.
"I never talked specifically about the book though. I should have, shouldn't I?"
"Not necessarily. People want to know the you behind the words. The you that wrote the book that has them calling their mom or telling their spouse they love them when they finish the book. That's what is so special about it. What?" he asked, seeing the look on my face.
"People are doing that?" I asked incredulously.
"Yes, they are. I did too. Surprised my mom, but she was happy to hear from me out of the blue. Think maybe I'm going to need to find my way home someday soon. I won’t be the only one."