I love the crazy chaos of our full house, when all 22 of us share space, beds, and break bread under one roof.
Of course, with that many people and that much going on, the Texas-sized serving of goodness also includes side-dishes of: mess and chaos; arguing; hurt feelings; mis-understandings; anxiety; unending piles of dirty dishes; lack of sleep…
But ultimately, none of that is what I remember.
When everyone is here, we seem to move like a wave through the house, from room to room, ultimately retreating back into the ocean that is our large living room. That’s where we gather to pray together, where we have our Christmas toast, where we play games, and where the kids drag us to read books—or to read books to us!
This house has felt so much of our life, embraced so many visitors, experienced so many changes in the pulsating heart that is my Tribe.
It’s as if the house itself holds our family frame together.
The summer my father died, for example, our oldest daughter wrote a beautiful piece that I thought captured brilliantly the relationship between this house and our family. It began like this:
My parents have this magical house. At first it seems like your typical fairly large suburban home, with two living rooms, a too-small kitchen, a separate dining room, and a few bedrooms. If you go upstairs, you immediately see a bathroom, a laundry closet, and three bedroom doors—but then you round the corner and see down a long hallway a fourth bedroom door.
The house is bigger than you thought: a four-bedroom house with a surplus of shared living spaces. But then you keep exploring, and you realize that one of the bedroom doors opens to two rooms and a second upstairs bathroom…
While we have had about thirty people sleep there on New Year’s Eves past, the house can sleep seven couples with privacy, or four couples, three babies, one child, and one single adult. This is what we did last week, sharing in each other’s grief.
The mornings were slow, with parents groggily and babies happily arising from bed. Every morning someone made coffee; most mornings someone else went on a Starbuck’s run for lattes and cappuccinos. Midday could find us all in and out of the kitchen, warming food that people brought by…
In the afternoons, people would take turns disappearing: to walk, to nap, to try to nap, to cry, to read. The house, along with the babies, would sleep. In the evenings we came back together, around the table, to nourish our bodies and, in the latter part of the week, to share stories of the wake, the funeral, and Abba himself…
The women ate too many sweets while the men drank beer. We talked and joked. It began to feel like Christmas, when we were gathered around the table after the babies were in bed.
But then we were stung again when we remembered that Abba wasn’t sitting contentedly next to Nana, his eyes laughing, as he did at Christmas…
[to read Anamaría’s whole piece, click here: Accidental Discoveries]
I have lived in 23 houses—but in this one, by far, for the longest.
Yes, of course, it is just a house. And I know in my head that the memories, and certainly the people, will go with us when we move soon to our next home.
But it’s going to be difficult for my heart to leave this one.
+ + +
“Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.
Take to heart these words which I command you today.
Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up.
Bind them on your arm as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.
Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.”~Deuteronomy 6: 5-9