Between Two Rooms


In 1959, our family moved from an older 2 story farm house in a rural community north of Seattle, to a rambler style home on seven acres just outside the city limits of Olympia, Washington.  It was a big adjustment to move to a much smaller house without a basement or upper story, no garage, and no large haybarn nor chicken coop on fewer acres.  It meant most things we owned didn’t make the move with us.

The rambler had side by side mirror image rooms as the central living space between the kitchen on one side and the hallway to the bedrooms on the other.  The living room could only be entered through the front door and the family room was accessed through the back door with a shared sandstone hearth in the center, containing a fireplace in each room.  The only opening between the rooms had a folding door which was shut most of the year.  In December, the door was opened to accommodate the Christmas tree, so it was partially in the living room and depending on its generous width, spilling over into the family room.  That way it was visible from both rooms, and didn’t take up too much floor space.

The living room, containing the only carpeting in the house and our “best” furniture,  was sacrosanct by parental decree.  To keep our two matching sectional sofas,  an upholstered chair and gold crushed velvet covered love seat in pristine condition, the room was off-limits unless we had company or for some very specific reason, like practicing the piano that sat in one corner.    The carpet was never to develop a traffic pattern, there would be no food, beverage, or pets ever allowed in that room, and the front door was not to be used unless a visitor arrived.  The hearth never saw a fire lit on that side because of the potential of messy ashes or smoke smell. This was not a room where our family gathered, talked loudly, laughed much or roughhoused on the floor.  This was not a room for arguments or games and certainly not for toys. For most of the year, the “living” room was not lived in at all. The chiming clock next to the hearth, wound with weighted cones on the end of chains, called out the hours without an audience.

One week before Christmas, a tree was chosen to fit in the space where it could overflow into the family room.  I enjoyed decorating the “family room” side of the tree, using all my favorite ornaments that were less likely to break if they fell on the linoleum floor on that side of the door.  Only on Christmas morning, it was our privilege to “mess” up the living room with wrapping paper, ribbons and us.

It was as if the Christmas tree itself symbolized a house divided, with a “formal” side in the living room and a “real life” face on the other side where daily “living” was actually taking place.  Our tree straddled more than just the two rooms.  Every year the tree’s branches tried to reach out to shelter a family that was slowly and imperceptibly falling apart, much like the drying fir needles falling to the floor, only to be swept away.

As a Pasture

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Allow children to make mistakes
and to joyfully strive for improvement.
Children love laughter,
running about,
and playing tricks.
If your own life
is like a graveyard to you,
leave children free to see it as a pasture.
~Janusz Korczak

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A Heart Bared

421152_10150518298024422_958316185_nThrough the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.
~ Debra Ginsberg

The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.
~Dorothy Parker

I would expect to be used to this by now; saying goodbye to adult children who come home for a visit, and then return to do what they have been called upon to do, living far away from us.

I may be used to it, but it gets no easier.  Each parting serves as a reminder of how deep and wide is the love for family yet how necessary is the letting go.

My tear ducts are due for a good washing out any way.  I consider it necessary maintenance along with checking to make sure the tires are well inflated.

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Our three in the middle,  leading outdoor church worship last night, photo by Brian Vander Haak

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
~John Fawcett, last verse, Blest Be The Tie That Binds

The Mystery of Tears

photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten

Whenever you find tears in your eyes, especially unexpected tears, it is well to pay the closest attention.  They are not only telling you something about the secret of who you are, but more often than not God is speaking to you through them of the mystery of where you have come from and is summoning you to where, if your soul is to be saved, you should go next.
~Frederick Buechner

I’m not paying close enough attention if  I’m too busy looking for kleenex.  It seems the last couple weeks I have had more than ample opportunity to find out the secret of who I am, where I have come from and where I am to be next, and I’m loading my pockets with kleenex, just in case.

It mostly has to do with welcoming our children and their friends back home for the holidays to become a full out noisy messy chaotic household again, with lots of music and laughter and laundry and meal preparation.  It is about singing grace together before a meal and choking on precious words of gratitude.  It certainly has to do with bidding farewell again, as we began to do a few hours ago in the middle of the night and will do again in two days and again in two weeks, to gather them in for the hug and then unclasping and letting go, urging and encouraging them to go where their hearts are telling them they are needed and called to be.  I too was let go once and though I would look back, too often in tears, I knew to set my face toward the future.  It led me here, to this farm, this marriage, this family, this work, to more tears, to more letting go, as it will continue if I live long enough to weep again and again with gusto and grace.

This is where I should go next: to love so much and so deeply that letting go is so hard that tears are no longer unexpected or a mystery to me.   They release the fullness that can no longer be contained: God’s still small voice spilling down my cheeks drop by drop.  No kleenex needed.  Let it flow.