Today is September 22, and it’s cloudy and 46 degrees outside my window. There is a stiff, cool northwest wind blowing out of Canada and with it comes the smell and feel of Fall. There is no denying it when we get to this point in the season. Even though Fall is not officially here for another 16 hours, that fact is negated by the reality of what is happening outside my window..
My wife and I were up north this past week in Lake Placid, NY and we visited my home town of Bloomingdale. Generations of the Emmons family were born and brought up there, as were my two sisters and I. Due to jobs and marriages, one by one we all moved from that place and my mother was the last remaining Emmons to call our ancestral village, “home”. At age 90, in 2007 even she finally moved south to live with my sisters, and when that happened an era ended. Bloomingdale, NY was still home, and we were still part of the community, but there was no one in the family there any longer, and that was hauntingly strange.
When I return there I still go into Normans General store. It’s been a landmark establishment in town for over 100 years. The last two generations of Neiderbule family Art and his son Artey, still own and run it. They also know me and greet me with fond affection when I come through the door. That’s because I’m a native son of the village and we all know I somehow still belong there. We get caught up on family things, they ask how my mom is doing and with a fresh brewed coffee in hand I’m on my way. It’s always the same and life in that place has somehow just stood still.
However, even in this place change still comes and we have to adjust. I remember what happened when I helped my mother pack up and move from Bloomingdale. It was a gray November day, and a very light cold rain was falling, as it often does in the northern peaks of the Adirondacks. In the distance, I could see wet snow just starting to fall on Whiteface Mountain. It was clear that winter was on the doorstep and mom was getting out just ahead of it. She had finally made up her mind to leave her “little mountain nest”, and the view of the mountains she so dearly loved was to be left behind. It was a hard decision for her after all the years, the memories and the gatherings that had occurred there. But, she also knew it was time to let go of that place, her church and her friends to begin the last leg of her journey in a warmer climate among her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
That day she gave all her things to me and her furniture, cooking utensils and appliances were carried out and loaded on my truck. It was odd placing her belongings on my truck bed and realizing that I would never again come home to taste her amazing cooking. More than once I had to wipe away tears as I lifted and looked at her things. Memories of our family life together came flooding back with each one. My dads rocking chair, where he spent every evening watching Walter Cronkite and Huntly/Brinkly give the evening news. He sat in that chair until 10pm every night while having a last cookie and cup of coffee with my mother and reading another historical novel by James Mitchner.
The oak, drop leaf table and four chairs they were given on their wedding day in November of 1941 was carried out. I had eaten countless meals around that table and I had heard the whole history of mom and dad’s life and love. The bed, high-boy and dresser they had used their entire married life was taken apart and loaded up. We had all been conceived in that bed and my father had died in it as well. The dark mahogany headboard still showed the place were dad had rocked his head back and forth as he suffered migraines during the winter of 1951. There were a few faint burns on his night stand were Camel non-filter cigarettes has left their mark during all the years he had smoked.
Mom only took her clothes when she got in my sisters car and somehow that just did not seem right, but the reality of things hit me hard when mom kissed me good-by. She smiled, waved and blew me a kiss as they turned and drove down our hill. She was starting a new adventure but two hundred and fifty years of family history in Bloomingdale had just ended like that, and my heart sank. I was left standing in that cold November rain feeling alone and disoriented. It was as if something had died, and I guess the truth is, something did die. No more cookies, special soups, home cooked meals or family memories were going to be savored in that place. It was over. “Home” was no longer there, and there was no way of going back.
A fine wet snow had just begun to fall as I locked the door to mom’s place and handed in the key. The fact is, when I sat in my truck and closed the door, I cried. After a moment every thing got very quiet and as i sat there. something happened, I watched as the grey wet November world was transformed into a beautiful white wonderland. It was amazing to behold. The change happen before my eyes as the temperature moved just a few degrees lower and rain became snow. It was amazing, almost magical to behold.
As I watched this transformation, and pondered how a few degrees made all the difference, another truth about change rose up in me as well. Home is not locked up in a specific place. Home is really embodied in the people you love who live there. Mom WAS “home”, more than this place, and if she was now happy than that was fine by me. With that reality, I wiped away a tear, a smile broke over my face and I began the drive to my “home”, my beautiful wife Esther, and the life God had given me with her. With joy in my heart I drove past the village limits of Bloomingdale that afternoon as the first snow fell singing, “walking in a winter wonder land”. All this happened just because of a few degrees of change and it was wonderful!
Perhaps that’s all you need, just a few degrees of change, to give you a completely different perspective in life. It doesn’t take much and doesn’t take long, but you have to be willing to embrace it when it comes. I could have been worried about driving in the snow. I could have been troubled about ice on the road and added that fear to the weight of what I was already feeling. However, I chose to see the beauty in the change that came and made it mine to enjoy. That small shift in perspective, actually set me free and it can do the same for you.
A few degrees of change today can make tomorrow a much better place if you have eyes that can see it and a heart that is willing to embrace it! let me encourage you today to reframe how you see your current situation. Replace the sorrow and loss your are feeling with a song and a laugh you are releasing… then go walk in your own winter wonderland!