Thursday, September 15, 2016

My Mother's House

The kids and I have returned to the home state for a couple weeks.

There's a great comfort walking into the house I've grown up in since I was 8 years old. At this point, I've been leaving and coming back to this house for 13 years - longer than I actually lived there. But it's still home, despite how many times my mom rearranges the furniture (read: quarterly). And now it's something even more special for my children - Grand's house.

Of course, my children are grandchildren numbers ten and eleven to come to this house - to try to avoid upsetting Linka the canktankerous German Shepherd, take walks on the golf course, and love the twizzler jar (but whatever happened to the M & M jar that was ever present during the potty training years? I miss that!). My parents are no strangers to welcoming little people to their home and like centuries of grandparents before them, have delighted in that special bond between the very young and the old.



But my mother has a special quality for welcoming children to her house. She is no ordinary grandmother. There is a warmth to her house that makes everyone want to be here. I want to try to remember it forever, especially since they'll be moving soon. My parents bought a new piece of property out on a beautiful lake and they're building a house on it, a house to retire in. I don't blame them, and I know that any house that my mom makes into a home will have that same quality. But this house holds so many memories for us, and for Susannah already.




It's true that both my parent's live here and my father's presence is no less. But it's my mother that's the homemaker and makes it a home, a fact I'm sure my father wouldn't dispute. Their styles are easily merged as neither of them is afraid of color and both have a distinct aesthetic sense. Yet it's true the home wouldn't be what it is without Dad: his bouts of "company is coming so I need to build a trellis on the back patio" are legendary. 





When we moved in, there was wall-to-wall shag carpet and horrible wall paper all over ever surface that would stand still. By the time we were done with it, it wasn't recognizable and I've never seen another house quite like it. For one thing, when I tell people I grew up in a house with orange walls and a yellow ceiling, I'm not sure anyone believes me that the affect was not circus-like. It sounds even more doubtful when I say the floor is painted concrete: terra cotta red and forrest green. But so it is. 






One of the best parts of my mother's house is that every chair has a lamp for reading and every table is actually a little vignette all its own. It's always been this way, but now it takes on a magical quality for my children. When they come in the door, there are any number of surprises - not laid out right in front of them, but tucked in around the house. On a window sill, a procession of elephants - a family of unicorns frolicking on their own table - a velvet rocking chair with two new books. My children discover these things over the days, as they explore the house, as they settle in to a routine of hearty meals and unlimited hours of imaginative play punctuated with long bouts of read aloud books. When they get a drink, the cups are orange with glitter and pumpkins floating about in them. 







Now as an adult, I know many of these objects personally - I buy items I know would appeal on my travels. I recognize that making a home is a life's work: there is no instant, no store to buy all a home needs. There's a tile from a great museum in Austin from the Edel Conference, a slightly rusted tin plate that was my father's as a boy, a print of a home Mass that they acquired from their Thanksgiving trip to Ireland a few years ago. Two of my favorites are the citrus crate made for them by my godfather and the didgeridoo my brother brought back from Australia when he was in the Marines.  









Much has changed over the years, there's no doubting that. When my uncle was still alive, I remember our Christmas's being much more Victorian with rich jewel tone ribbons. That gave way to an embrace of my mother's southern California roots, a great deal more of Mexican inspired art and elements, coinciding easily with half the household taking Spanish classes. After us kids left the house, Americana has crept in slowly to be a more dominant influence, though still coexisting kindly with the earlier vestiges of her evolving style. My parent's conversion to Catholicism has woven perhaps the brightest new thread into the home, a distinct theme - but perhaps the most interesting, in that far from alienating any of other, older elements, it has suddenly provided the unifying note to all that's gone before. Grace builds upon nature, in homemaking no less than in living. My mother's house is a beautiful testimony to the richness of a life that has come into full bloom, handsome and full in the light of grace.

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2 comments:

  1. So beautiful! I am sloooooooowly learning "making a home is a life's work: there is no instant, no store to buy all a home needs." It's hard. It's frustrating at times. Because how you describe your parent's home is something that I hope to achieve one day! Not only for me to feel comfortable, but for any person who walks in that door. Baby steps. And patience.

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