I sit here at my mom and step-dad's home in Austin, the house they moved into after they married in 1998, the year I graduated high school. Many of us kids lived in this house at some point (I stayed here for my last two years of college...this was the home I came back to after Zach proposed, and when I moved out it was to go with him to California).
This house that is too big for the two people who now live here permanently, but at this time of year it bursts at the seams as we all congregate back home again. It is so full of stuff, too-- all the things we kids left behind when we moved out (my high school letter jacket sits in the downstairs closet, still). You can't turn around without seeing flashes of time framed on the walls-- photos of us all through the years. The family portraits we've taken at christmasses past. Aging photos from childhoods, awkward teenagedoms, weddings, barely-recognizable-now newborn photos. The shelves are choked with photo albums, you can pick any one of them up and be transported back in time.
Many of my brother's things have now joined the fray, moved here from his apartment after he passed. Yesterday my boys played with his vintage Star Wars figurines, originals from the 70s and 80s I am sure, and I laughed in disbelief as I found a pristine-condition gameboy that had been his.
Zach and I have moved more times than I can count, but through all that I've always had this homebase to come back to. This home where, despite the inescapable occasional family arguments and disagreements, I know I will always be welcome here, be loved and accepted, that my kids are cherished here. That we are supported, not criticized or questioned despite my unconventional parenting choices.
I sometimes take all this for granted, because I have been lucky enough for this always to be Normal. I know that it isn't, or certainly isn't as common as it maybe should be. Sometimes I take all this in and feel overwhelmed with gratitude.