Gran's Apple Butter Blog

February 14, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: The Big Front Porch (8VIII)

Chapter 8 ~ The Big Front Porch

One home-coming Gran and I often discussed was death. No surprise, she had her own ideas about our final destination, and being Gran, once again, they were all about love. She used to say she reckoned that after death we probably go somewhere kind of like her front porch. You know, a happy place with loving faces and the feeling of being home again, like you’ve been there before. And maybe there will be your own Nanna or big brother or favorite uncle. Just sitting there, waiting like Gran in her rocker, big smile on her face, big hug in her arms, and that special hairspray smell only your grandma had.

When it’s time for this trip, you’ll know, Gran said. Lessons complete, pencils put away, lunchbox ready. The bell has rung, the little yellow bus is waiting outside. It’s time. This doesn’t mean that just for a moment you won’t wrap your feet around your chair legs and stubbornly hang on. After all, some of us like school. Then again, who’s to say we won’t be back tomorrow anyway? And what about third grade?

But for now, it’s time to go home, take a nice long nap and spoil your dinner. If you’re not partial to sweets, this might involve a fishing pole or a hammock and the world’s Best Book Ever. Whatever you need to feel like you again, ‘cause by the time we reach that final front porch, we’re just all in.

First things first: Milk’n’cookies. There will be plenty of time to do your homework. For now, just listen to the crickets sing you to sleep, waiting for sunrise when it all begins again.

The next morning, after you’ve had a good long rest, maybe you’ll head back to that front porch again, in a completely different state of mind, fresh and whole, chapter complete, remembering Who You Really Are and what you’re all about. You’ll be ready to look back at your day, your life, and to chat with some good friends about the whole thing.

You see, Gran thought our lives are kind of like projects, based on her dream, with tasks and milestones and objectives that all contribute to the whole. As any good project planner will tell you, the success of a project depends on having a good team behind you, pulling the same way on the rope. And sometimes the most valuable part of a project is the evaluation that comes at the end.  

So when you go Home that last time, Gran thought you’d have another project meeting, this time on that front porch, rockers circled ‘round, lemonade for all. The whole team would come in, including Grandma, Uncle Joe, and your kindergarten bus driver, and you’d all take a look at the master plan you designed so long ago. You’d look at how things went, and do some Serious Thinking.

How did it go? Did you break a new record? Find some new way of doing things that no one ever thought of before? Or did you slip up here or there? Miss a deadline? Forget some piece entirely? It’s all learning – or it can be. As long as you’re learning, Gran thought that was the important part. There’s nothing like personal experience to drive a lesson home, that’s for sure.

Once all the cookies and team members are gone (that’s usually closely related), when it’s just you and the Great Grandmother on the porch again, you can have a real heart to heart. You know, the kind you only have with your grandma. Maybe you’ll talk about what you wanted to accomplish, and She of the Greatest White Rocking Chair might ask if you were happy with what you’d learned, or if you’d like to give it another go ‘round, a do-over.

After your big talk is done and you’ve all but overdosed on cookies, maybe you’ll head to the backyard, looking for the tire swing or Snoopy the Beagle. Maybe you’ll just hang out on the steps for a while, passing the time, content to be close to Gran once again.

Maybe Gran was right with her ideas. Maybe she was totally off. But somehow the idea of a big front porch and a great white rocking chair really resonates with me. Or maybe it’s just ‘cause I miss Gran so much. Who knows.



One thing Gran said about that front porch: The whole do-over idea was quite different from what she’d been raised to believe. It stretched her mind a wee bit past her comfort zone, but she was kind of hopeful, as that would greatly ease the pressure of getting all her ducks in a row in just one go-round. She had a lot of ducks, she said, and some of them were pretty unruly and disinclined to cooperate.

Besides, even those who are sure about do-overs don’t agree on all the details, she said. She’d decided it didn’t matter if it was true or not, at least not to her. When it came down to it, Gran thought what mattered was whether this idea helped us understand more about ourselves and the lessons we’ve chosen. Any tool that helps with this is worth keeping polished and handy in our little tool boxes.

It’s like dreams, Gran said. Some people put a lot of stock in recalling their dreams, analyzing them, learning from them. Others say that’s just a bunch of unrelated hogwash, bits and pieces of memories and day-to-day life that come together in a Hungarian goulash, more likely a mishmash of one’s favorite sitcoms than anything meaningful.

Here again, Gran looked at dreams like any other tool, be it a screwdriver or a pair of pliers. She’d ask herself, was this useful? Was there anything she could get out of this, whether it was real or not? If so, her dream was helping her learn about herself and her life, maybe why things were the way they were, or why she did or didn’t do this or that, or even whether she should lay off the late night spaghetti binges.

As long as we were letting our imagination run free, why not follow and see where it goes? True to her mystery-loving roots, Gran’s imagination led her to the idea that perhaps our dreams are doorways into other worlds. What if, while our bodies sleep at night, we go visiting these other places, like channel surfing during commercial breaks? We might as well keep things entertaining, she said.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Gran never quite bought the idea of living happily ever after. Sure, you’re home. That’s great – enjoy it! Stay a while, hang out, eat some fresh pickles and try the cornbread, but don’t start thinking this is It. Life doesn’t work that way. Have a nice visit, ‘cause soon it will be time to journey on to your next home, wherever that may be.

I know what you’re thinking: I just got here! It’s not that we don’t want you to stay (although that three-day rule for guests and fish might have some crossover application), but if you sit in one spot too long, you’ll get bored and probably develop bad breath.

Besides, Gran didn’t think we were meant to sit any one place indefinitely. Our legs are too long for that, she said, and even our bodies tell us this – too much sitting leads to stiff joints and wide margins. And no matter how great home is, sooner or later we’ll feel the need to remodel, or maybe just see the other side of the world.

When that day came, Gran said, it would be time to start looking at those 3 P’s again, and time to say “Aloha.” You know, that word that means both hello and goodbye and all kinds of other nice things? It’s perfect for this, because the same road that takes you in your front door may be the very first step on someone else’s big adventure.

That’s why Gran said to never try to make someone else take the same exit you’re on. It may not be their time or place, and we don’t want to make such an important decision for another person. It goes against free will, Gran said, and focusing too hard on someone else’s road is a good way to not notice we’re headed down the wrong one ourselves.

So for now, back to the road. The sunset is calling, and sunrise to follow, and I can see Gran, far up ahead, the tail lights of her little hot rod twinkling in the distance.

Aloha, Gran, sweet friend. Travel well.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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September 20, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Along the Road/Ready to Go? (7/I)

Filed under: Along the Road,Book Series,Dreams,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Letting go,On the road — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 11:41 am

Chapter 7 ~ Along the Road

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living. ~ Miriam Beard

Here we are, all packed up and ready to go. We’ve stowed our map and checked the weather, picked our companions, and repacked our bags so many times we can list their contents by heart. Don’t forget one last bathroom run after all that coffee. Now the moment of truth has arrived. Everybody in? Seatbelts fastened? Sunglasses clean? OK, let’s roll, Willie Nelson on the radio, everybody singin’ along. Road trips are more fun when you sing, you know.

But wait: Did you just hit the GPS home button? Better make sure it’s got the right address. I had a friend who forgot to update hers after she moved. She wound up halfway to China before she realized she was on the wrong road. Later she told me she hadn’t really forgotten to do this, she just hadn’t been ready to let go of that old home yet, to tell herself “I don’t live there anymore.”

These things take time, Gran said. We’re the only ones who know when we’re ready to move on, and it doesn’t do anybody any good to rush things. One thing to remember: Using a really long extension cord is not the same thing as letting go.

Another thing Gran cautioned me about: Sometimes we don’t realize someone else is driving our car. We think we’re in control and we’re doing just fine, head hanging out the window with wind in our hair, when BAM! We get sideswiped or sidelined and all of a sudden we’re headed the wrong way or maybe we’re not even moving at all. We glare over at the driver until, if we’re awake, it hits us: Why weren’t we behind that wheel? When someone else is driving, Gran said, you never know where you’ll wind up.

Sometimes this is another person, maybe a designated driver we picked in a necessary moment. Other times we sit looking at our own hands on the steering wheel, wondering how we got there. We had the right map, plenty of fuel, only a few miles left, and the last we remember we were starting to sing. Then everything went blank, and here we are.

That’s a good sign we’ve still got some of those voices in our heads – the ones that don’t want us to get home too soon, for reasons they aren’t sharing.[i] In that case, Gran said, we better pull over at the next rest stop and do some digging, or we won’t get far on this one.

[i] Sometimes our dreams may be our first clue about this. If you find yourself cruising along in dreamland, try to see who’s in the driver’s seat. If it’s not you, better find out why


© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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April 5, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Loose Ends (5/V)

Filed under: Birth Home,Book Series,Books,Dreams,Emotions,Family,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Life Journeys — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 9:30 am

Chapter 5 ~ Loose Ends
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

Part of preparing for any journey includes wrapping up the loose ends of the one we’re on.

This step comes with its own form of guidance: Dreams. When we pay attention, our dreams serve as road signs, pointing the best direction, cautioning about bumps in the road and construction zones ahead. When we’re just getting started, these bumps can have a stronger effect, so it pays to be extra vigilant, to make sure we’ve got the best equipment possible and the best support team in place. This is not the time to skimp, Gran said.

Some dreams speak in symbols, but we know that language, if we’ll let ourselves remember it. Others are more concrete. Gran remembered when snippets of her childhood began bubbling up. A memory would rise to the surface and pop in her mind and all of a sudden she’d be back there somewhere. One morning she woke up remembering playing in front of the refrigerator. She could hear the hollow clang of the metal when she struck it with her toy, the thud as the fan kicked on, feel the cool door, the sting of the hot vent. Mom was sitting nearby, writing a letter. It was a cozy little corner, Gran said. Such a nice memory.

Our dreams point out things we’re ready to process and let go of, things we may have been holding on to or blocking out for a very long time. These memories will rise to the surface like beans in a big pot of stew. You know, the ones that stick to the bottom at first, then float to the top as we turn up the heat. We don’t need to worry about this ‘cause it’s actually a good sign that everything we’re doing is working, Gran said. Change is happening and we’re growing – and it’s almost lunch time.

Just like maps, Gran cautioned me to not to get too attached to any particular bean, ‘cause that could end up distracting me to the point I’d burn the rest of ‘em. But if I’d keep a watchful eye on them all, just stand back and let ‘em pop up, saying hello and goodbye as soon as I had a good idea of what each memory was all about, those beans would be done in no time.

When we’re ready to move forward, Gran believed we’d be guided in gently processing these memories. We don’t have to know how to do this ahead of time, we just have to be willing to do so, and the ways will present themselves. Most importantly, we want to welcome these dreams, because they’re part of letting go – we can’t let go of something we won’t even let ourselves remember.

Life is funny, Gran said. It’s almost like there’s Someone up there – or maybe even more than one – trying to help us on these journeys. Then she’d laugh. We all knew Gran didn’t think it might be that way. She knew. And that was pretty comforting.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
NOW AVAILABLE: Going Home, The E-Book & Going Home: The Tour LIVE – 2 CD set – Mikey and Gran’s story put to music!

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