Nobody really questioned why we'd want to be back here in Illinois for Christmas. After all, Galva is about as close as we can get to smack-dab in the middle between one son's home on the Minnesota prairie near Fargo and the other's address in North Carolina. Our big, barn-like house is a perfect place for a crowd at Christmas. And we were lucky enough to pack them all in for the holidays.
They're all gone now, of course, and few questions and comments have begun filtering our way from friends and neighbors:
"What's the weather like in North Carolina?"
"Have you been thinking of heading back south pretty soon?"
"I thought you'd be gone by now."
"Are you crazy?"
I imagine the recent concern as to the number of bats in my personal belfry has to do with our continued presence here in the midwest during the hit-or-miss weather phenomenon known as winter. As many readers know, my spouse and I have been spending at least half our time in an alternate universe called the North Carolina beachfront for the past year. And while the NC coast is not subtropical, it is generally quite a bit balmier than even the mostly mild winter we've been experiencing in the Land of Lincoln. My youngest grandsons are wondering where their beloved grandma is, and have, surprisingly enough, even indicated some mild interest in the whereabouts of the curmudgeonly coot known simply by the ominous, not-entirely-inaccurate moniker of "grumpa." So, you can understand why I've started, as the James Taylor song says, to have "Carolina on my Mind."
Yes, it's been almost exactly a year since we embarked on the interesting experiment I call "bicoastal" living, whereby we've split time between Galva and a shoreline house on North Topsail Beach, the north end of a skinny, 26-mile barrier island off the coast of the Tarheel State. Since then, we've been either there or here, with a few sidetrips to visit our other kids and grandkids, plus stops along the way in places like Nashville, the Great Smoky Mountains, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and many other points in between.
It's been fun.
It's been interesting.
It is, I think, what we always dreamed about when we thought about the future. And while there are plenty of other ideas on our list of things we'd like to do, a chance to be a part of our young grandsons' lives is well-nigh irresistible for grandma, and even grumpa, too.
So we're going to head that way in a couple of weeks or so, but before we do, we've still got a little stuff on our respective plates. Like a few happy rounds of the sort-and-pitch process that takes place every time we have a day or two to attack the basement-bound bins, bags and boxes filled with pictures, letters, newspaper clippings and other family flotsam that haunts my wife's very being.
She: What are we ever going to do about all that stuff down there?
Me: How about we wall over the door and pretend we don't even have a basement.
We need to take one more trip to northwestern Minnesota, where we plan to deliver a snowblower to son Colin, who, surprisingly enough, hasn't really needed it yet this winter. There are taxes and other paperwork to deal with, plus the ever-changing-but-always-growing list of things we absolutely must take east with us, despite our efforts to keep things in that living space as simple as possible.
Of course, it would be easier to leave if we didn't love it here, too.
Because even when it's cold, our hearts are warmed by the familiar faces and places that abound around here. We love our friends. We love our house. We love our town.
She, apparently, loves the basement, too, while I desperately love my 1994 Isuzu Trooper.
And while "love" is a powerful word to describe Max, the recalcitrant housecat, we're even sort of glad to see him when we return to the Galva half of our back-and-forth schedule.
But we gotta go.
We want to go.
Grandkids await, as do long walks on the beach and oceanside sunsets. The Blue Heron who fishes out back has been wondering where I am. The pelicans who patrol our beachfront need me to watch them as they dip and dive and glide. We're happy and excited to be returning to people we love and a place we consider our second home.
We've missed them. We've missed it.
But we'll miss you, too.
We always do.