We headed back to Rowe this year for Old Home Day. Such a wonderful time. So absolutely glorious! We packed a little lighter this year - just 4 short days. No tennis rackets, no dog, no food - we would buy groceries when we got up there. When we walk in we walk right to the large picture window that overlooks the lake - it summons us to come directly there - do not unpack, just kick off your shoes and go directly to the porch. We had forgotten the color of the sun and the light through the pines and the reflection of the mountains on the water, the clouds that create dark shadows in the middle of the day. We had lost track of the way the days unfold so easily and so effortlessly until it's time for dinner. We had almost forgotten. But there is always that piece of home that we take with us when it's time to go and it is rekindled when we return - Yes, this is what it was like. This is what I was missing. This is what it feels like to be home.And then it was time to come home. On the very last day as we watched the clock move from 1, to 3, to 4, more and more quickly as the hours expired, we scrambled to cram in as much as we could - hiking the mountain, floating in the water, eating any leftover food from the fridge, stealing any final moments we could. My youngest son was lying on the summer porch day bed with his head buried under a blanket. I went to him to rub his back and noticed he was teary. "What is it? Are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you hot? Have you been drinking enough water? Were your siblings mean to you?" No, no, no. Somehow he managed to garner enough energy to go out and join his siblings in the water and was fine. I asked my husband what he thought was wrong with Charlie. "He's sad to leave. That's all. It's always sad." I had forgotten that too - the Sense of Leaving. How could I forget? I remember being about his age, much too old, I thought, for crying, but still crying the whole way home from the beach. That looming sadness that fills the air and makes it hard to breathe. We have to leave one home to return to another home and we are so torn! So,we look for little ways to steal a piece of it: stealing the last few moments in the water, stealing heart-shaped rocks off the beach, stealing a root of the wild roses that grow behind the house, stealing a picture or two of the flowers, the beach, the big rock, the mountain - Stealing Home. Charlie had done this - he had walked to the big rock and taken pictures of the scenery - beautiful images to carry home with him, but it's still not enough. We want the whole thing. It just doesn’t feel the same. As my oldest packs for college, I wonder what pieces of home he will steal. We are packing him with blankets and towels, and clothes, but what pictures do we send? What mementos will bring him that piece of home so far from home? There is an old American flag that hangs over his bed now, a piece of my college home that I actually found abandoned in my brother’s dorm one year - my little piece of stealing home. I don’t know what I had imagined doing with it at the time, just that it had a story to tell and it was old and iconic and now it has become part of our home decor. Will he take that with him? I think it is meant to be in a college somewhere. Maybe.I heard a beautiful homily once given by a missionary priest from Haiti. He had befriended some of the children in the village, some who were too young to understand what it meant that he was leaving. One little boy ran after him as he walked down the village road with his knapsack. "Acompáñeme!" he called, "Acompáñeme!" The literal translation of this word is accompany me, or come with me. What he meant, hollering as he ran to catch up with the man, was, Let me come with you, but what he had said was “stay here with me”. The young child had gotten mixed up between words. The word he was searching for was acompañarte, meaning accompany you, or I want to come with you. I love this image. When the priest gave the sermon to us, you could see the love he had for the people in this village in his eyes. He was a humble servant of God and I can still picture his face. In the homily, he tied this story to our relationship with God. God asks us to follow him, to come with him and trust the way, to trust in him. Often we ask instead for God to stay with us where we are, where we know, and where we feel safe. We get mixed up, just like the child. But we do need to follow, we need to leave sometimes, we need to say goodbye. Those words are filling my days right now. I feel like that young boy chasing a gentleman down the path, "Acompáñeme! Acompáñeme!" Stay with me! I don't want the days to end. I don't want the summer to end. I don't want to send my son off to college. And part of me is screaming inside, Let me come with you! Wouldn't it be amazing to start out on that journey, to begin, to set sail? College is such a wonder-filled, wonderful time. And he is so lucky! I feel so happy knowing he is setting out in the world and I know he will be fine. Trust me - I am ready and he is ready! Just like the priest who knew he had to keep going. But, before the missionary left, he turned and recognized the sadness of these passage points in time. He picked up the child and assured him that he would be back. He held him in his arms one last time and tousled his hair, and said goodbye. And then he moved on. He came to our little church and shared the story and then eventually, I assume, went back to Haiti. When we drop Jay off, I will shed a tear, and he will say, "It's okay Mom." He will pack all the things from our house, all his ways of Stealing Home, and he will carry them with him off to college. And he will also steal a little piece of my heart, and that will remind him, of our love, of our home, of our memories and happy times and those talismans will also lead him home again.