Thursday, July 25, 2013

Two brothers. Two houses

The aunt and uncle that I grew up living directly next door to, have their home for sale.
Well, technically, they have both since passed on to Glory, so their daughters are arranging the details in their absence.  Being that my siblings and I are also arranging the sale of our parents home since their passing, I totally understand the agony, yet need, to accomplish this huge endeavor.

I have a dear niece that is looking for a home for her growing family, so when she Arranged to see my aunt and uncle's home, I was delighted to be a part of the home tour!  We had already peeked into the solid front picture window, trespassing although it were, and got excited about seeing the home from the inside out, and not just sneaking a limited view of what lay beyond the front glass.  I had already explained a few of my recollections of the homes layout to my niece, but as memories flooded back to my heart, I was excited as we turned the lock and entered.

The double garage was added years after I had married and left the neighborhood, and the green home that I mostly recalled by memory was now sided with vinyl in a pleasant taupe color.  It made a nice solid background for which the bushes stood out against, and the roof on top looked clean and strong.  But as the door to the front of the house opened, I was astonished at the memories that flooded my senses!

I was the child again who came to visit my oldest cousin as she lay in her bed with an injured heel that sustained a nasty bike accident (of which I was the driver of!), icing a painful foot of stitches. Oh I felt so very sorry for what my carelessness had caused.  I hoped then that she would have forgiven me sooner than later!  I felt tremendous guilt and couldn't stay around to see what the verdict would be!
Or the time she had her tonsils removed, I visited that room again, wondering if her voice would ever sound the same again, and feeling sad for her painful throat, but secretly wishing I, too, could have my own tonsils removed so that I would get to eat as many Popsicles as I wanted like she was enjoying this day.

I could smell the overly salted pretzels we made with her Easy Bake oven, hardly tempting I am quite sure, yet my dear uncle swallowed them up with smiles as If we had presented a glorious 8 course meal on a silver platter to a king!!  We were so proud!

I remembered where every piece of furniture was placed in the minty green living room,and could hear, once again, my aunts tinkling laughter as she served up her newest concoction to the love of her life as he returned home from work. She had infectious smile and a twinkle in her eyes. Then there was the time I could hardly wait to see the newest member of their family! Just after school we quietly peered into a bassinet, marveling at the bundle of pinkness that lay sleeping there. It was my earliest recollection of seeing a brand new baby, and I could hardly take my eyes off of the tiny roundness of her nose, and how each little finger looked slender and perfect. Her two older sisters enjoyed showing her off, but were quick to frolic Off to play, but I just couldn't stop looking at her. It was better than I could imagine, and I loved that she was now a part of my life. The middle sister was best friends with my baby brother. I imagine they were about the same age, but it was clear they were "cut from the same cloth." Family often commented on how much they were alike, as if they were twins born to differing mothers, but genetically very much the same. They laughed at the strangest things, and even in their growing years, remained close and connected. I didn't have time for them, as our days were filled with swings, forts, neighbor children and late night firefly hunts. The dark would settle in all too soon, as we separated for the day, just waiting for the next episode of our childhood that simply couldn't come fast enough. It was all here now, hitting every sense in me as I stood in their family home, inhaling the memories like a crack addict. I needed this reprieve from today's life. I had to reconnect, although just for a few moments, to a precious time I feared I had lost. My closest aunt and uncle have been gone for a few years now, grief has been pocketed away, in the same compartment, I suppose, as the tidy place I now keep my own parents since their death. Today was the day I took out those feelings, rolled them around in my heart, holding them in my shaking hands and cried. What was the value in all we had lost when we laid them all to rest? They were not properties and accumulations of their meager wealth, but were just all-too-short caregivers of the lives Entrusted to them. They all died, and I am quite sure there were accolades and praises given by their creator for how each of them valiantly carried on the years they were each given. Above all, between the two brothers, they successfully raised 8 children in a tough world, and each boasted of grandchildren and great-grandchildren that will continue use the legacies they left behind. Two houses now hang in the balance. Two homes built together, side by side on a quaint road off the beaten path, lovingly carved out of timber and shingles by the hands of the brothers, brother in laws, their growing children and the patriarch of them all. What will become of the homes, the lots, the yards and memories? I imagine when I am gone, some of my children will recall these homes, as they stand today, empty and longingly looking for the next set of lives who may build new sounds and laughter to their walls. I dread the day they will be deemed unnecessary or undervalued, and torn down for progress. It is sure to happen as progress deems important. But how I hope it's not too soon. I want to hear laughter in these walls again. Fresh, engaging laughter as a new generation builds on top of the memories already so grounded in the soil of this neighborhood. I want to see dogs, and chickens and swing sets and bikes fallen over in the yard, as a new family of children trot off to see what is happening under the big trees. Is it wrong to envision picnics in the shade or make believe stories being played out once again in the safety of their parents watchful eyes, just as a whole generation had done all those years before them? It is hard to watch the changing of the guards. But what a joy if those hands who turn the keys would be an extension of what our mothers and fathers began more than fifty years ago. What if a hundred years from today these homes were shored up, made stronger still, and another generation could stand and hear the echoes of their own memories flood back to their senses when things in the world just feel so out of control? Somebody will love these homes, just as the ones who built them did. Oh that I would see that happen and could rest in my soul and know their life work was not in vain! They are not just houses. They were where two families called home. Our homes. Our memories. Our past. Not crypts of days gone by, but stepping stones to another generation who needs shelter and a place to build their lives. Cornerstones strong enough to shield their whoas, gentle enough to give them peace at the end of their days.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Independence Day 2013

One of my favourite childhood memories was the warm summer night we packed a huge bag of popcorn in a brown paper grocery bag, a new pack of cookies and a thermos of koolaid and loaded up the family car just before dark. We were headed to the small city airport in our town for the annual fireworks display. It was often on a weeknight when my dad had already worked a long, most likely hot day as a sheet metal journey man, tired and barely rested after his shift of climbing ladders or crawling through an old building to install duct work, when he would slip his comfortable loafers on, take the wheel, while four children squirmed in the back seat of the auto and we made our way to town. We usually met other family members there and would park our cars side by side, throwing old quilts on the ground while adults leaned on the hoods of their cars or set up lawn chairs. I remember smelling the faint cigarette smoke in the air as the men puffed on the sticks that eventually were banned, listening to the parents conversations with one ear, while leaning into the stories of the cousins gathering around our blanket. We ate snacks, talked like crazy trying to get it all in, while anticipating the show that couldn't begin until the last rays of sun sunk below the skyline and it was perfectly dark. The years were all different, but so very much the same. Laughing, talking, waiting in community until the first pop and bang signalled the show had begun! It was like magic to my young eyes, and so,sorely missed as an adult when I lived away from my childhood home the first July after my marriage. Even then, my soul sought out the crackle as the booms sailed over my head and sulfur smells as the fireworks lit up the sky , no matter what town we called home in those days. A variety of events in adulthood gave me experiences I wouldn't trade for the world, but none can compare to those summer nights, as a family, that we gathered under the massive sky, watching the heavens light up in declaration of our country and her independence. Tonight is the time where we have continued the tradition with our own family. Though grown, I hope my first three children are looking at the night sky tonight and watching for the colours to erupt and shimmer down like magic. I hope my grandsons out East are seeing colours in the clouds and hearing the boom, boom BOOMS that shake the ground. I pray that all are safe, and the night explodes in pride for our country, and we all remember the great land we live in. But tonight, I am missing the displays. I am in the hospital with our youngest son, Isaiah, (3) as he recovers from the breathing difficulties he had earlier today after a routine surgery to replace his feeding tube. Isaiah is a fragile child medically, which we tend to forget until something like this disrupts the normal routines we have grown accustomed to since he came to our family 15 months ago. It feels as if he has always been a part of us, but it's just been this year that our lives have learned to slow down to accommodate a sick child. His smile - oh, I wish everyone had a child who smiles like our Zay! He has a complicated history, including abandonment in his own country (which saved his life!) to the prized "baby of the family" here in America, where he is enveloped in the largeness of our lives, getting the medical support he could have never gotten there. His life is a miracle even now, having survived two years of little nourishment, medical needs that are complicated, yet able to be managed here. He radiates love and gentleness and is teaching us more each day of the things that really matter. So I sit here remembering. America. Fireworks. Family memories. Missing my other children who are gazing at the skies in our hometown with their daddy, seeing magic like I remember so clearly when I was a child. And I remember last year, sitting with my mom, watching the last fireworks display she would ever see on earth, as this year she is seeing them from above the clouds in heaven. With dad. And I smile. Isaiah now sleeps peacefully, breathing regulated after a day of struggles, with a moderate supply of oxygen, rhythm re- established, making me believe he will be able to rest well, and return home tomorrow. He dodged another scarey twist in this complicated little life of his, and I am grateful, once again, to the ONE who keeps him safe. He had known him in his mothers womb, created to be unique and perfect, and who guides each of this breaths as HE ordained from the very first one. In a way, I am quietly celebrating a different independence tonight. Isaiah's. Although his body is entrapped in stiff limbs due to his cerebral palsy, and the tremors overtake his peacefulness much more often than I care to admit, he is free. He is free to love, to be loved, to smile, to bring joy. His deep eyes twinkle when he is happy, fill with tears when he is in pain. But he is free. He is not a slave to empty pursuit of things. He is simply content when his most basic needs are met. He doesn't crave notorious fantasies, or desire great wealth. He is a simple, although brilliant minded boy, who's biggest joy is to have me lay beside his frozen body and just BE there. Loving, cooing and stroking his frailty, I hope he always will know just how very treasured he is. I am grateful for the memories I hold dear, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to pass on the traditions that meant so much to me to the children I call my own. And more than anything, I thank God for the way He leads me and assures me I am His own. He continues to walk this medical path with Isaiah, reassuring me He will never leave us or forsake us. Happy Independence Day, Isaiah. Perhaps someday you will guide others to seeing the beauty of life from your simple perspective to love and be loved. There can really never be anything sweeter than that.