Today’s guest post is from author, speaker, and humorist, Charlene Baumbich. Charlene has spoken at several Hearts at Home conferences. Her novel, Finding Our Way Home, is a story of love, second chances and an unlikely friendship, showing us how the smallest act, done with love, can change everything.
I was invited to share a five-minute story on the topic of home. The public event, including several speakers and a singer/songwriter, was scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. in a cozy coffee house in Winona, Minnesota, a town where we Illinois folk rent an old farmhouse. A town nearby is where our youngest son, “suddenly” 40 (fingersnap!) lives with his family.
After I’d agreed to participate, my daughter-in-law called. Could we babysit our two grandgirlies, six and four, on that same evening? Calendars: it’s either all or nothing! I told her I’d get back to her.
I phoned the coordinator of the event to asked if the speakers would all be rated PG. He assured me they would. Since George was going to the coffee house too, it was decided the girls could come with, so we joyfully said yes to a sleepover with two of our favorite munchkins. In a blind leap of faith, I trusted the girls to behave, a trust I immediately covered with prayer.
On our way to the event, one of them panicked. “We forgot to pack Barnsey!” Barnsey is her beloved, rag-tag teddy bear who helps her fall to sleep every night. Although I knew we’d be cutting it short, we backtracked several miles to retrieve the nearly furless critter. As we traveled along, in my head, I began rewriting the opening segment to my story.
“Home,” I said into the microphone with a tone of deep satisfaction. I shared a few relatable things we love about home-ness, like our favorite lounge chair, a bed that fits and people we love. I mentioned a couple things that aren’t so wonderful, piles of dirty laundry among them. Then I recounted our backtracking, bear-nabbing journey to the coffee shop.
“Sometimes,” I said, winking toward our beauties, “home is anywhere your most precious possessions arrive with you.” The crowd smiled, followed my wink. Thankfully, the girls were behaving exceeding well, distracted by, and busied up with, a ginormous cookie and a whipped cream topped drink each. (When trust and prayer still leave you feeling a little vulnerable, food is the age-old Mom Way to distract and divert. ☺ No, I haven’t forgotten.)
That night, the girl with the bear wanted to sleep in the waterbed with me. Her sister—the one who has trouble settling down for the evening–opted to sleep just across the hall in what we refer to as the rock-and-roll room, complete with an electronic keyboard, guitar, harmonica, tambourine, electric drum sticks, and a string of fancy purple rope lights.
With one child and Barnsey snuggled together on their side of the waterbed, I went to the rock-and-roll room to tuck in the other. “Snug as a bug in a rug,” I said. My grandmother, to my mom, to me, to my son, to his daughter. For at least five generations, it’s the way we tuck.
Shortly after I crawled into bed and the waves stopped rocking, I heard faint noises.
Squinting through the darkness toward the cracked-open bedroom door, there in a faint purple glow casting into the hall, appeared the shadow of a tiny form.
“Did you need something, Bean?” I whispered, invoking my pet name for her.
“Yes,” she said, barely audible.
“Come on over to my bed and tell me what it is.”
She silently padded up and leaned down toward my ear. I could feel her soft breath. With a sorrowful note to her sweet little voice, she said, “This doesn’t feel like home, Grandma B.”
Oh! Unbeknownst to me, she’d listened to my every word! Her faith in those words, now betraying her, shattered my heart. Glad for the darkness hiding the tears springing to my eyes, I reached an arm around her.
“No. It’s not your every-day home, Bean. But it’s our home, and it’s your home for tonight. Do you want me to tuck you back in?” Yes, she did. One more potty trip and a drink of water—one more “Snug as a bug in a rug”– and to sleep she went.
Dear Lord, thank you for Barnseys and safe homes and words. Words held in sacred trust in the mind of a child. May we, snug as bugs in your warm forgiving heart, remember the power of our words, every time we open our mouths. Amen.