I have a place in my home where old things are displayed. Worn books, my grandmother’s hurricane lamp, Dad’s horsehair drafting brush, eye glasses and a pipe, my other grandmother’s woven hand fan, and black and white photographs from long ago. All of it sits on an old wooden chest built by my great-grandfather.
Things passed down from one generation to the next. Reminders of who came before and how they lived. Connections with the people who, for better or worse, loved and taught the ones who loved and taught me.
But the most important things passed down to me aren’t books and photos or wooden chests.
“If you don’t know where you’re from, you’ll have a hard time saying where you’re going.”
― Wendell Berry
There’s something special about getting to renovate the house I grew up in.
In the process of removing the existing floors I’ve discovered the floors I walked on when I was a little girl. The brown and gold flecked linoleum in the kitchen and the solid hardwood in the bedrooms.
In our attempt to remove the wallpaper in the back bedroom I found the green and yellow flower patterned paper that decorated my older sisters’ room when they were teenagers.
And I found pink walls underneath the wallpaper in my dad’s office which used to be the room I shared with my younger sister when we were in elementary school.
I’d forgotten the floors and the yellow and green wallpaper and the pink walls. These discoveries have unlocked a flood of memories.
Like the time I was sitting in my sisters’ yellow and green bedroom listening to Elton John’s Tiny Dancer on the radio one Saturday morning.
And now I remember sharing our bedroom with my grandmother for a while. She slept in a hospital bed beside our bed and I was scared.
And when Mom cooked oyster stew and I only put the milky part in my bowl to eat with oyster crackers because I don’t like oysters. Or when Dad showed me the way to eat cereal so that the little Krispies wouldn’t stick to the sides of the bowl. I sill eat my cereal that way.
I know other memories will come. Sweet, sad, and joyful ones. Maybe some scary ones, too. I am who I am because of the life that happened in that house and the people that loved me there. Those that taught me there and cared for me there.
Mom and Dad struggled there and forgave each other there. Dad took care of Mom there. We all learned there.
Learned to live and care and forgive there.
We all learned to love there in our house.
But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good.