The Green Grass of Home
Twenty-nine years ago, at the age of twenty-one, I got married and moved from New Jersey to Florida the next day. It was an exciting time of planning and dreaming. For months before the wedding and move, visions of palm trees and sunny skies danced in my head as I stared daydreaming out the window of Newark Airport where I worked. We were going to get away from all of "this." New, and beautiful places, new faces, and a happily ever after in paradise. A friend of mine came to say goodbye to me the day I was leaving. She started crying, and I couldn't imagine why. I spent the next six-plus years crying and complaining about the heat, the tourists, and the old people -- while greatly missing family, friends, familiar places, and the four seasons.
After the birth of our first daughter, we finally broke out of the routine of life to move back up north. Once again the daydreaming started as I watched that Newhart show based in Vermont. Aaaaah -- back to the snow, the seasons, the mountains, and the trees. Real dirt and rocks! It was all going to be so wonderful -- like the show. Don't laugh, but my husband even took a job transfer to Vermont. It was a town called St. Johnsbury -- all the way at the top of Vermont near the Canadian border. We packed up to leave, and as before, family and friends came teary-eyed to say goodbye. Adios -- it's been real -- we're outa here.
So the trek began from the south of the country to the very north. My husband drove a rented trailer with all of our belongings, and I drove our vehicle with our most precious belonging (our daughter). We smiled and dreamed and drove. And drove, and drove, and drove. After a while, it started to seem quite far -- too far. My smile disappeared somewhere around Connecticut, but we kept driving. At some point in Vermont, the radio stations pretty much disappeared, and there was one religious station. Then, in the middle of the night, an old black station wagon with white skulls painted on it drove past me. Where the hell was I??!
When we finally arrived in St. Johnsbury, it was about 2:00 a.m. The motel we had reserved left the key out for us, and we proceeded to our very simple (okay it was gross) room. The next morning we drove around to check out the town. It was early October. It was already cold, and there was no sign that there had ever been life on the trees. There was one grocery store, and half of the people in it (that would be about 6) spoke French. Forget this. I wasn't going to spend another six years in misery. I told my husband that he could stay if he wanted, but that I was heading back to New Jersey with our daughter. The poor guy didn't have a choice. He told the hiring manager that we weren't staying, and we left -- now homeless and jobless -- for New Jersey. Thank God my husband was able to get a position with his company in New Jersey. We lived there for a year while we searched for a home in Pennsylvania. We've been in PA ever since.
All that experience didn't stop us from daydreaming again when we were in Bermuda last week. Crystal-clear waters, sunny skies, pink houses, fresh fish daily, and mopeds! Wouldn't life be grand? One day while we were enjoying ice cream at a local parlor, a native Bermudian named Eleanor approached us. "Do you love our island? It's beautiful isn't it? I was born here. The people are wonderful." We agreed, and the conversation continued to the shopping - which led to the high cost of living -- which led to discussion of Costa Rica -- where Eleanor and her husband hope to live someday.
She said: "Pineapples there are only 50 cents apiece. They are $7.00 here. And we can purchase land in Costa Rica for only $35,000.00. We are going to retire there soon." Before long she was explaining that all of the shops on the island close at 5:00pm. "There's nothing to do here in the evening." She continued: "If you want to leave, you have to take a plane somewhere. It's quite monotonous sometimes." By the end of the conversation, my husband and I couldn't wait to get the hell off of that island!
We're funny creatures, we humans. We're always searching. We think: "There's got to be something better than this. Life will be great when . . . " It's the old "the grass is greener on the other side" syndrome. The truth is that we're seeking happiness externally that can only be found internally. And the ultimate happiness that we seek -- be it person, place, or thing -- is not going to be found anywhere on this earth. No amount of sunshine is going to fill that spot of darkness that always seems to loom.
You see, there is no person who can truly complete us. There is no place that will make us feel as if we are truly where we belong. And there is no thing that is going to fill that emptiness -- that longing.
There is a hole in our souls that is, as they say, God-sized. St. Augustine said it best:
"Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they rest in you."
Until we reach our final destination, my experience has taught me that every place is different. No place is perfect. And there's no place like home.
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