Where the Heart Is…

Flying out from Los Angeles yesterday afternoon—leaving beautiful, sunny, coastal weather—and entering into the snowy, sub-arctic tundra of Chicago has never felt more appealing. She has gone mad. I can hear all of you saying it now, and it makes me smile. Yes, Chicago in winter is brutal. Yes, I will probably be crying for your sympathy come March when the snow has not abated and the temperature fluctuation is still playing mind games with us all. Don’t worry, I’ll let you reference this post back to me (humbly and a bit sheepishly, I’m sure).

But for now, I want to revel in home. Home. Songs, epic poems, battle cries, cheesy cross-stitch pillows; they all hearken us back to this familiar place. But what makes it home? I have thought about this a great deal since divulging to my family out west that I’m not planning on returning to their shores anytime soon. Chicago is my place. Chicago is where my people live. Chicago is where I feel most alive. And I think that’s the ticket. That alive-ness. And it’s found in the small details, the nuggets of joy in the mundane, the surprises that pop out from the ordinariness, that make us breathe deeply and know that we are alive.

My roommate Emily picked me up from the airport last night (thank God, because it was -20 wind chill…woof!) and shuttled me home across a sleepy, bundled-up city. It was so good to catch up with her on the drive; I am grateful that she volunteered to pick me up (despite crazy delays due to weather. Thanks, lady!) Driving through the snow-crusted back alley to our apartment, my excitement began to grow.

I walked into the kitchen and all the smells and sights that have grown familiar and cherished came flooding back to me. Home. Miriam was there to greet me, and to show me some of the things that had changed since I left, a month prior. I loved what she did with the dining room. It seemed to fit better than we had originally created it. I love little nuances like that. Fresh. Clean. Change. This apartment has grown into such a lovely manifestation of creativity, warmth, and solace; I am so thankful to share it with all my friends, near and far.

I walked into my enchanted bedroom with my big-girl bed, cozy armchair, and beloved writing desk—one I inherited from my Grandfather when he passed a few years ago, and that my brother graciously schlepped all the way across America for me. The magical porch lights were dangling from the ceiling, lighting up the whole space with a warm glow. And boy was I excited to see what delightful morsels of mail and Christmas presents I still had yet to open since departing!

I had to spent quite a bit of this trip away being “administrative.” I had ample amounts of time with which I needed to buckle down and take care of some business. I am proud to say that I am now an insured adult (I know, right?!), I officially own a checkbook (I can hear you laughing), and I am a registered car-share user (so I can survive the winter this year…hopefully). Being administrative is at the bottom of the priority list in my life, but I have to admit that I was pretty stoked when I got home yesterday and all of that mail proved a fruitful return to my labor. I even received a few “fun” pieces of mail, like a letter from a friend in D.C. and tickets to the upcoming Brook Fraser concert. Yes!

I noticed there were a few gifts sitting on my armchair as well. Beautiful hand-made mittens, created from used wool sweaters—Lucy Blue’s. Omg, I can’t believe how warm they are! (Thanks, Sarah—they’re perfect). I also unwrapped a lovely book (Lena, you know me too well, thank you). It’s a book of letters written by C.S. Lewis from over the years. That, and a few others that have been given to me by friends and family, and I’m set for a winter reading list (minus some cookbooks and biographies and Madeleine L’Engle fiction that still need perusing, of course).

Melanie came home to me banging a nail into the wall in the kitchen (a common occurrence around here, lol) so I could hang up a calendar that I had made of pictures I have taken through this last year. She squealed and gave me a big hug and I was so glad to see her. A month really is a long time to be gone. We swapped stories of home, and I unpacked all my suitcases. Between all the thrifting and Christmas presents this year, I had my work cut out for me in the packing department. Luckily, I have inherited my Dad’s sense of tetrus-style packing mastery. And TSA didn’t ruffle through my bags for once! I love it when that happens.

Ten o’clock rolled right on by. The roomies were all tucked in bed (they all go to work at the crack of dawn…lest you think we’re all old ladies…ok, sometimes we are). And of course, I was wide awake. Minutes kept on ticking, and my energy did not seem to wane. So, I put my new flannel sheets on my bed. That was a grand idea! I was so cozy this morning that I had a rough time getting out of bed. Flannel, two wool blankets, and a down comforter—to keep out the cold of the sun porch. Absolute Heaven. And what would my first morning back home be without coffee in my Chemex? That was a delightful treat. I’ve grown quite attached that little appliance and I missed it dearly while I was away. Pour-over coffee is just perfection. I digress…

My time spent out West was challenging—as all trips have the capability to be—but it was not without great blessing either. I got to spend ample amounts of time with my mother, which was amazing. She’s had a rather difficult year and it meant a lot to her having me around. I got to witness a miracle in the flesh. My cousin, who lives in Australia, has been trying to get pregnant for almost a decade. She and her husband had all but lost hope, until (miraculously!), they got pregnant this last year! I am proud to say that I held their baby boy (already four months old) this Christmas and experienced the profound love of God in his little body. Sometimes, it is when we are close to losing all hope that God makes Himself known to us in ways unfathomable and daring.

I also spent time with extended family, which is always a restorative thing for me. Another of my cousins is expecting in March (yay!) and seeing all of us together in one room (minus a few cousins) reminded me of the power of blood. No matter how difficult life may be, or how lonely you may feel on occasion, family is always there. Blood runs thicker than water, they say. I know that my cousins, aunts, and uncles all feel the same. Our Bradberry sense of kin is strong. And I am excited to watch us age, the children grow, and the gatherings multiply. Though we are all spread out, we throw a wicked-fun reunion! Maybe the next one in Chicago, guys?!

The snow is beginning to fall outside my window as I finish this post. And somehow, it is a welcome sight. The purity in the white, dancing flakes, the coziness of home, and the promise that spring is coming (we’re already half-way through this!) makes my heart glad. I hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and New Years celebration. I challenge you now, after the craziness of the season, to look for the subtlety: linger over a cup of coffee with a loved one, read under the blankets just one chapter more, watch the snow fall in the dark or the moon rise over the horizon, listen to something on repeat just to relish it. Enjoy being home. There’s no place like it.


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