Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmases Past and Time Traveled

This Christmas, we traveled a little….over the hills and 
through the woods to family’s house we went 
 to see loving faces we adore. 

Despite the snow, we made it to our destination on time…and even early. Since we were running ahead of schedule (about a half hour), we decided to take a quick drive past my childhood home. This was a step of courage for me, as I have not been anywhere near this cherished home since my mom and dad sold it and moved into a retirement community almost 17 years ago. They both passed away a few years later.

Ours was a modest, yet beautiful home. My father, who was a man of many talents, took impeccable care of it and his love for his family shined through the work of his hands. His loving care of our home gave us a sense of security and peace. My mom’s exquisite taste made it a place of beauty and comfort.

History was made on that land. It had originally belonged to my grandma and grandpa. My grandfather actually built this home as well as the house next door where my aunt and uncle lived. Eventually, this home became ours after my grandma died.

When my parents were aging, they decided it was time to let go and move on…a difficult decision, but necessary. I’ve often wished that one of us could have lived there and kept it in the family. After they left, I didn’t have the courage to go back there. I just couldn’t face the tears I knew it would inevitably bring. Tears not just for a house that was no longer ours, but tears for the end of an era.

As we approached our street, I was bracing myself for disappointment because I’d been told in a letter from our long time neighbor, Mrs. M that the house had not been cared for properly by the new owner. Mrs. M said that if my parents were still alive to see it, she was sure it would break their hearts. I was preparing my heart for a pounding.

The neighborhood does look a little different, yet remnants of familiarity are still there. We drove slowly past the house, turned around at the corner and drove back by.  Mrs. M was right.  It looked somewhat neglected. I felt a sudden jab in my stomach.  My eyes glazed over with tears - I kept blinking them back, trying not to cry.

As I stared at the house, trying to return its facade to the one in my mind, I began to recall the many Christmases we enjoyed in that home…the laughter that filled the air; the food we prepared; the cookies mom and I made together in that kitchen; the meals enjoyed in that dining room; the Christmas lights dad placed on the lines of the roof and on the lantern post along the front walk. I thought of the summers we swam in the pool and the wonderful vegetables picked fresh daily from my dad’s garden. I lingered on the memory of picking cherries from the tree outside the back door back when grandma lived there and the scones she would prepare with supper when we would visit her every Sunday afternoon. I realized that my favorite dog is still buried in that back yard, and then….I cried. I couldn’t stop tears from streaming down my cheeks as I reflected on the beautiful life we had there. Tears over sweet memories and tears over loss. Nevertheless, tears of gratitude that my life in that place was extremely blessed…blessed beyond measure!

As we rolled slowly past the house one last time, I saw a little white haired lady walking very slowly from Mrs. M’s mailbox and back toward her house. This little white haired lady “was” Mrs. M.  The same Mrs. M who I remembered to once have a shiny head of black hair. We pulled into her driveway and I called to her. As she turned to see that it was us, her face, that same sweet face I remembered, lit up with the most comforting smile. I jumped out to embrace her in a holiday hug and we spent a few minutes quickly catching up before we had to hug one last time. As we drove off, I watched her waive goodbye and in her sweet voice say “I love you”…”I love you too Mrs. M!” I called back. And oh, how I miss you! Oh, how I miss that house…the people…my life there…my family….An ERA!

As we continued forward, I realized that there was a special blessing in this visit to my childhood home. Seeing Mrs. M!
It was as if God placed her there in that driveway at that exact moment for a purpose. Seeing her made the visit more pleasurable; less painful for me…a reminder that my life there is not entirely gone. Seeing her familiar face and hearing her “I love you” gave me a sense of comfort. A precious Christmas gift!

We turned the corner to continue our journey to my brother’s house. As usual, we would be reminiscing this evening and enjoying the familiar cookies and traditions we’ve kept throughout the years while making our own new memories…memories which will be added to those already stored within our hearts. I anticipated their smiles and hugs, with tears of gratitude now dabbed dry and replaced with a smile as I thanked God for “the house that built me”.


The Mom Chef said...

Oh, I wish I could give you a hug after reading this. I can't imagine how this must feel. I consider myself so blessed that not only are my parents still alive, but are living in the house I grew up in from 5th grade on. Being able to take our daughter to her grandparents and put her to bed in MY bedroom is an amazing feeling.

I'm so happy to see this blatant evidence of how God takes care of the heart hurt by putting Mrs. M right where you needed her most when you needed her most. He is so, so good.

A multi-dimensional life said...

Thank you so much, sweet friend!
Despite the fact that my childhood home now belongs to another family, I'm reminded that it isn't the house where love and memories are stored...but the heart. I feel so blessed!
I suppose my dad felt like you do, and being able to live in that house as an adult with his own family. You are also blessed!! Hugs!

Anonymous said...

Lorraine, I'm so glad you went back to the house you grew up in. Its so hard sometimes to think back and feel those memories of times gone by. I'm so thankful you have such nice memories of your childhood. Feel very blessed as there are few that do. I know they helped shape you into the beautiful and sweet person you are today. God is so good. Its no accident Mrs. M was there to greet you. He knows, He cares, He prepares our way. What a wonderful new Christmas memory for you!

OceanDreams said...

What a beautiful story and love the music video that you posted, goes with your story perfectly! So glad that God brought Mrs. M into your life as well as the beautiful memories from your home. I hope my parents never sell my childhood home, they still live in it - for over 25 years now! Glad you were able to reminisce, even though it was hard to go back. Hope you had a beautiful Christmas!

mangiabella said...

I was mesmerized with each word pulling me in deeper and deeper into the story of "the house that built you" and just then, a rush of memories flooded my heart of my own childhood home in New York, and of the nearby neighborhood where my father's family built their lives....and just as close is the neighborhood of where my mother's family built there lives....I do wish I could have spent more time there, but God had other plans in the Southwest for us :) - most of my cousins are fortunate enough to have their parents still living in the homes they grew up in back East. I am thanking God for that special little love pat He had for you through Mrs. M....He does care so intricately for the details of our lives. He knew you would be 1/2 early and decide to make a trip down "memory lane"....and He was there....waiting for you....sigh.....Merry Christmas Bella!

Monet said...

Such a beautiful story. I have yet to visit my childhood home because I have both good and very sad memories attached to it. Reading your post has inspired me to travel there with my husband. It is evident that seeing these places stirs up good and important emotions in our hearts. This was such a pleasure to read this morning. It put me in the right perspective for the week ahead. Thank you so much for sharing!

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Lorraine this post is beautiful. I felt each moment in my heart as I read your story. I am sure that God placed Mrs. M there at the exact moment you needed her. ((HUGS)) Sounds like that home gave you a heart filled with happy memories. Thank you for sharing. We did a trip to Chicago in October going past all the homes we lived in, all with beautiful memories too!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

Such a beautiful, poignant telling of a bittersweet memory. Thank you for sharing with us. I think we all can relate; I know I certainly can. Kentucky houses my beloved homeland and the many houses in which we lived. A couple more special than the others, but all of them unique and treasured because of the memories shared there.

I'm sorry for the house's neglect, but I wouldn't underestimate the memories being made in those 4 walls for another family. How I pray they are good ones and that the remnants of another family's love and peace (your family) echo and hover over the scenes now being played out in that place. I think the greatest lesson here is to make good memories whatever four walls present themselves to us as our shelter. I have to believe that this practice is a good seeding for a season to come.


Janette@Janette's Sage said...

Oh how precious...I can totally understand this journey having made one of my own this summer, when I celebrated 30 years with my husband. I too wished our family still owned our family home, but they too had to move on. I also cried, but I also cried because we lost our family home that my children grew up in and they will never have Christmas there again either...but the structure, although special, isn't what it is all about. Our relationship to Christ, my children being believers, our time in whatever structure God provides...that is the story.
Like yours, I hope mine look back and they see God!
How special to see your neighbor...a Bravo,Bravo moment if there ever was one!
Blessings and Happy New Year

Chef Dennis said...

what a beautiful story and tribute, it is so hard to go home sometimes, to remember......everything changes and everyone gets old.....sigh
Thank you for such a thoughtful post

Ginger~~Enchanting Cottage said...

So many people these days move from place to place. I love reading this story about your childhood home. I plan to stay in our home as long as the good Lord will allow me to.We have lived her 20 years so far and I'm 49. I have 3 small grandchildren and I'm always thinking of the memories that they will have at grandmas house.
God Bless,
God Bless,

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Thank you for your beautiful comment on my post today.

inspiredword said...

Great memories and a great perspective to give thanks to God for al things. Also to say thanks for visting my blog.

lani said...


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