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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

From the Outside

On any given day you may find my Mom parked in an Arby's parking lot facing Main Street in Elkhart, Indiana.  She will spend hours there.  You see, to her its not an Arby's. It is her front porch.  The house she grew up in, was in that very spot before they knocked it down and built a Burger Chef, which is now an Arby's.  If she parks her car in just the right spot it is like she is sitting on her front porch, same view of the railroad tracks, and if she squints, it is easy to pretend there is a 2 lane highway rather than four.  If she rolls her windows up she can almost hear her family inside.
This is the closest thing she has to being in her childhood home.  My grandparents have both past away, my uncle is gone also.  Around the holidays it is a particularly hard time for her.
I am lucky to have my parents living in the same home that I grew up in.  We recently spent the night there and I slept under the same glow in the dark stars that I put on my ceiling in 1986.  They still work too.  From 0 -18 years I slept in that room. I know every inch of it by heart. I know that the scratches on the inside of my closet door are from the cat I tried to hide and keep in my closet.  Or that the dent on the wall is from moving my bed to every possible place in a square room.
When I walk into my parents house it hugs me. Its my house too.  There are so many memories that have all been jumbled into one. I spotted my son looking out one of the huge windows in the front and in watching him I was brought back to my small kid self doing the same thing.  I can tell you what the wood trim smells like, even tastes like.  I liked to lick things as a kid apparently.  I can look out at the exact place where the tree was that I fell from and broke my arm.  My parents cut it down after that.  Sometime I would love to sit in silence in their house. I'm sure it would speak volumes to me...if I listened.
I'm thankful to have this opportunity where I can sit in the living room, round the corner to the dining room and see my dad standing at the kitchen window and my mom sitting at the table.   They always look up and acknowledge me and they always have.  I'm sure the same scenario has played out since I was crawling into the kitchen.   Unlike my mom who has to rely on a parking spot to feel at home, I can go right to the very spot.  I had a great childhood and having them simply notice my presence reflects that.
Last night I went grocery shopping and since the time change, it is dark by 6 PM.  I don't  know why, but I was compelled to stop in front of our house instead of parking in the garage in the back.  I sat there as a voyeur  into my own life.
It is obvious that the house is alive.  It may be over 80 years old, but it is energetic. Every light is on. This would usually make me mad, but in this case I was happy because I could see what was going on.  Don was in the kitchen while Parker was doing his homework at the kitchen bar next the tower of lunch boxes.  I couldn't see Oscar because he is too short, but my guess was that he was following his brother Jack as he ran from room to room. I could see Jack's messy hair and that was about it.  Fin was standing in the living room practicing the violin.  I saw the over flowing laundry basket sitting on the bed in the front room.   On the dining room table was a heap of backpacks.  As I looked from the outside I found myself so much more grateful  than when I'm on the inside.  When I am in it, its hard to appreciate the beauty I could so clearly see now.  I focus on the laundry and not the laughter.
I'm not naive to realize that in a flash this will be over.  Just like Marge.
Marge is a women in her 70's that knocked on our door one Sunday afternoon.  It was a particularly lazy day and the house was a monumental mess.  When I opened the door she had tears in her eyes as she explained that her parents built the house and she lived in it from 1931-1940.  Not only did she live in it, she was born in it.   She asked if she could come in,  I welcomed her and apologized for it's appearance.  As soon as she walked in she said it was just like coming home.  She marveled at the fireplace. She went right for the kitchen and stood exactly where the boys stand when they are hungry.  We went on a tour for over an hour and she shared funny stories. Turns out, Oscar isn't the only baby to have fallen down the stairs.  Before she left she gave me a picture of her sister and herself sitting with their Mother on our same front steps.
She gave me a hug and explained that shortly after they moved her mother got sick and died.  Our house is the only place she has memories of her.   She had since moved away and was passing through and decided to finally knock on the door.  A few years back she had done the very thing I was doing. She parked her car outside and looked in, afraid to bother us.
We have since kept in touch.  She said she was so so happy to see the house that she loved as a kid being taken care of. I again mentioned that it usually isn't so messy and she responded with, " with 4 boys, if it wasn't messy I would be suspicious".
A house is only bricks and mortar.  But just like a person, it is what is on the inside that matters.
After a few minutes I decided to pull around and was greeted happily with four boys eager to see what food I brought home.  

The people sitting on the front steps may have changed, but the same feeling remains. The view from the outside gave me great perspective, but for now I prefer to be on the inside.

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