burden / by Carey Pace

Frodo: "I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened."
Gandalf: "So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

I was standing at the stove, cutting a package of bacon in half. Those lines whooshed over me like the first rays of sunlight coming over the horizon in the morning. 


On Monday he seemed a little tired, but we chalked that up to the previous three full throttle days with Daddy home. Shawn's and my eyes met across the dinner table and silently communicated the way parents eyes do. "Maybe he's getting sick? Maybe he's just tired? Something's off, that's for sure. We'll just keep an eye out." For you see, when Daddy's home, the days are chock full of adventure and late nights watching sports or American Ninja Warrior (the things that the ladies in the house don't necessarily enjoy). Momma's adventures are adventures all the same, but of a much more tame variety. The child has always loathed sleep. We thought that he just needed a "down day" to rest. 

When I woke him yesterday, he still seemed a little off from his normal. A little somber. But he's not really a morning person. When he returned home from school, however, his mood was crossing over into downright melancholy. That just isn't "him." 

I gave them significantly more free time than usual after school before enacting the bell of doom: Hark! It is now time to begin afternoon routines! His attitude towards having to do his homework was quite sour. He sat at the art table, head heavily resting on his left hand, trudging away at a math worksheet while I cooked. His face was downcast. His posture, defeated. I asked him several times what was wrong, but all he could answer was that he didn't want to do his homework. In some matters as a mother, my compassion knows no bounds. And yet in others, I cannot find it. My personality has little patience for this kind of bitterness. "It is what it is," trite as the saying may be, is true. Homework isn't something we can control, and in fact will only get worse the older he becomes, so you may as well just put your head down and get through it. The faster, the better, no? He's always had an uncanny ability to make something that should take ten minutes last two hours. 

When Shawn got home from work, he immediately noticed this uncharacteristic Boy and tried to get out of him what on earth was upsetting him. But again, all he could say was that he didn't want to do homework. We ate dinner and then the Lady and I ran up to the tree swing to try to get a picture or two before the sunset. Shawn went to sit in the hammock and somehow the Boy ended up in there with him. I didn't notice at first. I started to walk over, but Shawn clandestinely waved me away with an expression on his face that told me he was finally getting to the truth of the matter. I waited until bedtime to find out what he discovered. 

While they quietly talked, I walked around the ridge of woods on our property with my camera, purposely seeking things of beauty in those last beams of sunlight for the day. I anticipated that the Boy was talking about how much he missed his old school and his old friends back in Tennessee. This had me considering how Facebook, Messenger, and text messages have kept me sane in this moving transition. They give me a lifeline to those few in my inner circle who keep my heart "okay." I pondered how while I still have this connection to my whole "world" back "home," The Boy and Lady really don't have that, at all. How lonely they must feel!

That wasn't it, though. Imagine my surprise when Shawn told me that it wasn't Rock Springs that he missed. He likes the new school just the same as he liked the old one. Imagine my surprise that it wasn't his old buddies he was missing, not that he doesn't miss them. And that it is a bummer that none of the other kids seem to like sports, at all. What on earth could it be then? 

Shawn said it took quite a bit to get to the root of it. The Boy has always been a thinker, but he doesn't always have the vocabulary to articulate what he thinks and feels just yet. That can be challenging when you don't want to lead them to an answer, but want to give them the words to express their hearts. It turns out that he misses our old house. 

My heart just broke. 

The last moments before we walked out of the house in Tennessee, Shawn and I stood in our then utterly empty and spotless bedroom, and cried. The house in Virginia is everything I've ever wanted in a house, and yet, it took everything inside of me to leave that Tennessee home. I wrote about it before - it was the house that built me. But it was where everything that has happened to us as a FAMILY has occurred, with all of its annoying imperfections that made it what it was. It was so hard to walk away, and yet, I was surprised that it seemed to affect the kids very little. I had anticipated tears of leaving that backyard utopia, but nope. There were none. To them, it seemed a non-event. I counted my blessings that at least I was only having to deal with my own sorrow. 

There were some days in the earlier weeks here, and if I'm honest some in the more recent days, where I've had a harder time with this transition. There were days when Shawn came home and it was me in that melancholy mood where I couldn't really pinpoint WHAT was wrong. It just was. It is just something you must process and move on with. But I'm in my mid-thirties. The Boy is just eight. He was already asleep when Shawn told me about this discovery, but I wanted to run in and just envelop him in my arms and tell him "I know, Buddy. I know. I'm so sorry. I know."

So today when I was standing at the stove, hands wet with the moisture from placing bacon in the pan, trying to get a head start on dinner, the lines from Lord of the Rings held a different ring to them. The Boy and I aren't navigating a perilous journey, no. But some days, it does feel like a burden. A big heavy burden. A hidden burden. Like the ring concealed in Frodo's pocket, those who look at us going about our days don't see the heavy sadness in our hearts at having embarked on this new and unfamiliar journey. 

Shawn and I decided to go forth with this move for many reasons, one of which was that it would draw our family closer together. I do believe it absolutely has, and will continue to do so. But that being said, it's still a journey. One doesn't often embark on a journey and come away without a scar or two. You are better for it, but it hurt all the same. "I wish the ring had never come to me." That brings tears to my eyes. "So do all who live to see such times", my dear Buddy. I know. "But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us."