Our own home has sold and closing has happened. And we have found a wonderful place to live in Missouri, complete with a front porch and a garden. (Sorry, it’s not what you see in this photo.) In just a few weeks we will be unpacking in our new home, and hopefully the cats will adjust.
My replacement has been hired at work and I am training her, a difficult task in that so much of my work is stuff I do automatically over and over…and how do you teach that.
Today I find that I just kind of look at the house here and think of what I can sort through, and then I’m stuck. Just stuck. Can’t seem to put one foot in front of the other and begin. Because if I begin that means this is really happening.
The piano has gone to its new home and a photo sent to me shows all three children in that family sitting together on the piano bench and playing. Making music of their own. I am so happy that they wanted to take this on, that the piano can now make its beautiful music like it needs to.
This moving thing happens in the middle of all the rest of life. It kind of takes over, but life still happens, the truck that needs repair, the failing health of parents, the joys of new life and new beginnings, and the mundane daily tasks.
But because it is such a monumental thing, this move, this change of residence and places to work and live, it feels as though the very ground I stand on is shifting. A virtual earth quake? How do I keep balance?
What do I need to hold on to?
If anything has changed with this move it is my understanding of home.
While I really enjoy decorating and creating a beautiful space in a house, I know now that what makes it home is the people with whom I share that space. Home is all about relationships.
Wherever my husband is, there I am home.
And when I have the opportunity to share time and space with my children and their own families, that sense of belonging, of home sweet home, returns.
I can say the same about gatherings with my own family of origin, though as health issues affect my parents the fragility of that virtual place increases.
Even more than this, more than the family ties, the bonds of friendship that have forged over the years…ah. These places in the heart. This is home.
Because, where else can you be your best self other than with a true friend? Or even be your worst self?
In that sanctuary of friendship we find unconditional love, acceptance, understanding, and the space to grow, to be who we really are.
I agree with that phrase, “Home is where your heart is.” Because in my heart will always be those friendships, those relationships, this wonderful marriage with my husband, the incredible bond of love with my children, and those family ties.
That is what I’ll hold on to.
Have you ever had the chance to tour an old farm house like this one? To hear someone tell of what life was like in the early 1800’s and see how the home reflected the life style of those living there?
I was interested in the small details I saw in each room. And it made me think of the small details in my own home today, of what is similar to a home that existed 200 years ago.
There were children’s playthings in one room. Evidence that a family once inhabited the place. You’ll find children’s playthings in my home, too, in a container that is brought out when children arrive.
I love getting to pick up toys again. Never thought I’d say that 30 years ago.
There were dishes on the table, waiting to be filled.
We eat out a lot, so you won’t always find dishes at my table. But when I cook I do like to set out the dishes and make a special setting for a meal.
Handmade furnishings are everywhere in this old mansion, items that to me are works of art. I don’t know if the creator of this bed spread would have considered this art, but the details and craftsmanship certainly make it so in my mind.
In my home there are hand made bed covers, too. And art hanging on the walls, meaningful objects that say “this is where we live.”
A child’s hat laying on the bed. It tells a story to me of a young one coming in the house after chores or after play. There is something welcoming about having that place to put your hat.
Near my back door is such a place. Hang your coat here and leave your hat. Come in and have tea.
Little touches that add color and softness. A bit of fragrance. A handmade item.
This is the good kind of clutter that softens and gives a place a feeling of home. We have that in the form of books laying everywhere, an occasional stuffed animal, real violets growing in pots, and cat toys on the floor.
And there is the light that streams through the windows, the light of the candles when the night falls. Always the light that overcomes the darkness.
When we look for a new home, I always look at how the light is, how it comes in, how it fills the rooms.
For a long time after my grandmother and grandfather had both died, this cookbook still held the fragrance of their home. I can’t begin to describe what that smell was like. I just know that when I would open this book and stick my nose right in the crease of those slick, shiny pages I felt as though I was being transported back in time.
And they were good times.
Working in the kitchen with my grandmother was an experience. She had her way of cooking, her way of saving and conserving, her way of making things taste oh-so-good. This was her favorite cookbook. Even today as I pulled it from the shelf to take this photo, I found yet another scrap of paper on which she had written a recipe for a coconut pie, one that I had not seen before. Papers and note cards are stuffed throughout, in places where a recipe was marked so it would not be forgotten. I love that those handwritten notes are still surprising me.
We all know someone in our lives who could or can today prepare a certain food that just makes the mouth water. For me and I think for most of my family it was her ‘sweet rolls’ as she called them. Cinnamon rolls fresh out of the oven, swimming in a thick mixture of butter, brown sugar, and pecans. Even before she would bake them you could smell the yeast dough as it would raise in that big yellow mixing bowl she had. But get them in the oven and the perfume filled the air and lingered for several hours.
Somehow we would find out that she was baking, and like magic we would appear in her kitchen. Just as years later, when grandpa was alone after she died, he would find my kitchen on the days when my neighbor and I baked holiday cookies. He just had to sample those cookies, and we all had to test those rolls to make sure they were good enough.
Grandma was so good at putting together a good, hearty lunch for grandpa, and whoever in the family could join us. I usually set the table, and helped with fixing the food…in whatever ways she would allow.
There still exists in the family stories an episode of grandma and I preparing a meal together and making sure all the food was cooking properly. We had a pan of frozen green peas cooking on the stove top. Grandma was a little concerned that we get these to taste right…so her advice to me was,
“Don’t forget to salt the pea water.”
I knew what she meant, and so did she. But we started to giggle. This became even funnier because of who said it, this woman who never would let anything off-color leave her lips.
To this day I don’t know how we managed to get food on the table. Soon the word was out about her famous remark, and no one in the house could keep from laughing. I still laugh about it, as I’m sure she does from her peaceful place where her soul resides.
That cookbook was published in 1941, when the world looked quite different than it does now. When cooking in your own kitchen was the norm, rather than jumping in the car to go get fast food. When family and friends would frequently, if not daily, gather around the table and share a meal. Those are the ideals that shaped the cook my grandmother was.
Occasionally I try to imagine her standing in my own kitchen with me, telling me how long to cook that roast, or fry that chicken, or showing me how to make the homemade noodles that would melt in your mouth….and stick to your hips!
I recently bought a brand new Betty Crocker Cookbook. Already I’m making notes on the pages about what recipes we’ve had that we liked. Yet I still go back to this one, from 1941, and read the how-to’s and look at the photos of how to set a pretty table.
Yup. She’s still in the kitchen with me.