Monday, September 20, 2010

Home Is Where Your Flaky Blue Paint Is

Last Friday began with every indication that it would be business as usual. Three-year-old running around with no pants on: check. Six-year-old claiming to be near death due to extreme and unusual hunger: check. Seven-year-old finished with morning chores lickety split and having target practice on my behind: check. 

Little did I know that after lunch, my day would take a turn for the sappy and sentimental. I don't like to go down that sticky road very often. It's gooey and messy and makes my eyes leak. I like to stay clean and tidy, cut and dry, black and white. I like to stick to business, thank you. But Friday...I got messy. I mean, up to my eyeballs in sap and poignant pangs of emotion.

I liked it. It was, I feel, a gift in the midst of the routine of my life as a mother.

I took my kids for a picnic on the west side of town. I know, appalling, right? I mean, what business do east-siders like us have over there? But, I am a west-sider by birth. I grew up there, man. That's my hood, know what I'm sayin'?

Leaving the park, we passed the cemetery where my dad is buried. On a whim, I swung in to look at the spot again. I don't go very often. More than two years have passed since that cold January day. The mound of dark earth has settled and grass is growing there now. I thought, as I always do, about how he is not really there. His body lies waiting for that day when Christ returns, but his spirit is with the Lord now. Having a good old time, I'm sure.

Leaving the cemetery, I realized that I was now driving on my old bus route. As a school girl, I stared out the bus window twice a day, watching all these houses and businesses go by. This path was familiar territory to me, and I found myself headed toward my childhood home. I was lost in remembering who used to get off at what stop. Yes, Anitra and Benji got off here, and Missy D. was always let off at this road.

I was startled back to the present by raucous laughter coming from the back of my van. My kids had been holding out their tongues under the air conditioning vents until they were dry as cotton. Evidently, dry tongues are far more hilarious than wet ones. I smiled when I realized that my children are doing just what my sister and I used to do at their ages: mindless, silly pranks that make parents wonder what it is they've gotten themselves into.

My intention was to drive by my old home place, show it to the kids, and be on with my day. But as I slowed down to look, I saw the sign in the yard: Garage Sale 7am-1pm. My heart started to pound a little harder. I checked the clock: 2pm. Too late. But the garage door was still open, and then I saw her--Natasha, as I would soon find out--waving me in.
(our house at Christmas)

I felt suddenly weak and sweaty and weird. I was about to walk into the garage where I grew up! I mean, I didn't grow up in the garage. I had a bedroom like normal kids, but it was really close to the garage! Was I a freak for being excited about this? I wasn't sure, but I explained to the kids that we were about to enter the garage of my childhood, and they seemed equally pumped about it. These are kids who get excited about scraps of paper and empty tuna cans, though, so maybe we're all just a bunch of freaks.

As we entered this sacred garage, sweet, lovely Natasha started saying something about her sale. But I couldn't hear her. All I could do was see: see the walls, the floor. The floor. It was the same. It was so familiar to me, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to laugh or cry. Here I had just come from the grave site of my dad whose absence is still startlingly painful at times, and now I was looking down on a floor that he had painted so very long ago. I remembered him painting it that shade of blue-grey and then being so disappointed at how quickly the paint had flaked. He never fixed it. It was that way always, and it is that way still. Here was something my dad did with his own hands, and he is gone now, and I can't even understand myself and how that makes me feel. 

I didn't know how to tell Natasha that I didn't come for her sale, so I looked up at her and said quite eloquently, "I didn't come for your sale." Before she had a chance to call the police, I explained the situation to her. She was immediately sympathetic and generous and glad that we had come! She invited us in to see the whole house. Bless her pea-pickin' little heart, as my mom would say. What a gift! 

(target practice in the backyard)

As we looked at the backyard and every room of the house, Natasha and the kids listened as I shared little memories and stories of the the way it used to be. And then Natasha shared her stories of the changes and improvements they have made to make it a home for their two children.
(Me and Holly)

(me baking cookies)

 This house was my haven--the place where I lost all my teeth, learned how to ride a bike, how to change a diaper(thanks, Josh!), how to cook(thanks, Mom!), and where I got on my knees and asked Jesus into my heart. And now it is, once again, a home to a family that cares for it and each other. That makes me so glad.

I thanked Natasha, who was, like myself, close to being teary-eyed. As I drove away, I felt a mix of emotions: thankful I got to see it again, sad that it was probably the last time, and perplexed that a simple house tour could be so deeply moving. I did not just eat and sleep in that house. I was loved  there. My spiritual roots began there. Maybe that's what it is. That house is where I met God, through the teaching of my mom and dad, and through the presence of the Holy Spirit in that place where He was welcomed.

Some of the things my dad built or fixed in that house are gone and some remain. But someday, it will all be gone. There will come a day when there won't be a trace that he was even here. But I carry in my heart the lasting effects of his prayers for me, his passing on to me his love for the Lord and the Word. This is the kind of keepsake that does not fade, the treasure that rust and moths cannot destroy.
And then I knew. I can do this. I can be this mommy and do this cooking and cleaning and laundry and teaching and disciplining and praying and crying and laughing day after day until I reach the end. What I am doing matters. It matters to God and to my children in whom I am investing and depositing spiritual treasures that last for eternity.

(my three blessings)

So, I will do it, Dad.

 I will do for them what you did for us.



  1. Oh Rachelle, Thank you! :) My heart needed to hear your post today :) Love you! Thanks for sharing the ole' pics too! You are amazing!

  2. okay, i am bawling my head off. man, how did you not mention this when i saw you this weekend? i know why...cause you are not me. i always have to share the experience right away...blah, blah, blah...what an experience that must have been! I can only imagine. Very, beautiful...who knew your week would end with such a precious gift.

  3. I love this post Rachelle! Although I am crying right now. What a great experience.

  4. Oh Rachelle, you said it all so well. I am in tears, but with little chokes of laguhter when in the midst of your writings I would see a picture of you or Holly. What a mix of emotions! I absolutely love the picture of you making cookies in your blue dress, little white apron and knee sox with your cute glasses. You look like a very studious Alice in Wonderland! Thank you for sharing your heart. God does so many wonderful things in our hearts around the same theme. It is interesting to me. Can't wait to talk in more detail this weekend.
    Love you!

  5. This was beautiful. I loved the pictures of you three as kids and the family photo. What a legacy you awesome that it will just keep going!

  6. You are an amazing writer. I think my cat flipped a bucket of oil on itself in that garage...Jess and I eventually bought our first house right down the was like driving through my distant past every day.

    God bless, have a great week.

  7. So many good memories there too - it was my favorite place to have a sleepover because of your family. Thanks for helping us moms remember in the midst of a crazy day with half-dressed kids and sticky kitchen floors that this moment is part of something much greater. Now I've gotta go put all my makeup on again because I just cried it off :) Tisha

  8. So enjoyed your post. So glad you got to go visit your childhood home. So glad you took the time to reflect and share. THANKS :)

  9. It was such a blessing to meet you that day! The chances of us meeting were so slim but God does work in mysterious ways! I can not explain to you how much it has meant to me to meet you and to read your blog. I received your card today and I have been sitting here reading your blog and crying my eyes out. I have just recently asked God in to my life and this has really touched me and is very encouraging to me on my walk with Christ. Thank you so much....


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