I had the completely unexpected and akwardly surreal experience of stepping foot in my Granny’s old house the other day. What was supposed to be a field trip from the retirement home to see her brother a few miles away instead led us to her home of 50+ years, and one thing led to another and I realized the empty house was unlocked. I should back-track a bit and add that the last time I was in her house was when we were cleaning it out after she moved to the retirement home, probably six years ago. At that time, the house had been sitting vacant–but with all the furniture still in it–for a few months. There had been a break-in and the few valuables in the house had been taken; drawers had been pulled out of dressers and thrown around, etc. I’ll never forget the overwhelming sense of relief I felt as I helped my father and aunt rummage, sort, straighten, and clean that spring Saturday. I was glad we were doing this while Granny was still alive, so that we could ask her questions about why she kept so-and-so, or who was in what photo. My dad and aunt found stacks of birthday, Mother’s Day, and Christmas cards, many of them with money and/or cheques still in them. We also found no less than five Crock Pots in the kitchen cabinets, four of which no longer worked. The only thing that upset me about cleaning up the house was taking the dozens of family pictures down off the built-in mantle bookshelves and dividing them up by branches of the family for distribution. The only thing that upset me more than sorting the framed photos was the fact that the robber(s) had cold-heartedly gone on a rampage through the house as all our eyes were staring at them from said photos. If the thieves were to see any of us out in public, they’d know who we were, but not vice versa. I felt cheated, angry, and vulnerable.
But I digress–Granny’s old house has been rented out almost continuously for the past five years or so, so to find myself standing in the recently vacated house three days ago brought a flood of memories back. For starters, the piano we clanged and banged on as kids had, for no apparent reason, migrated to the greenhouse on the back porch. The only other piece of furniture in the whole house was a sofa in the living room which I’d never seen. I opened a closet and a used Heinz ketchup packet was on the floor–why couldn’t the last tenants have thrown it away instead of throwing it in the closet? A couple of the bedroom walls had been painted with too-bright, cheap-looking paint. The carpet had been ripped up down the hall and in the bedrooms, which was actually an improvement, as the hardwood floors from the early 50s are gorgeous. I thought for a split (and I literally mean a split) second about moving into the house myself, but I knew that would never happen. From inside the house, I could hear my Granny outside under the carport telling my aunt that she couldn’t believe the window-mounted Whirlpool air conditioner was still apparently working. I never knew this growing up, but the only reason my grandparents ever agreed to get an A/C was because when my grandfather was dying from cancer, the doctors said the cold air would help relax him and ease his pain that last summer he was alive (1981).
Upon locking up the house and picking a now-purple hydrangea bunch for my Granny to root from the bush underneath her kitchen window (the bush had baby blue blossoms as long as she lived there–a change in the acidity of the soil must be responsible for the currently lavender blooms), I realized that I didn’t feel sad about the house being empty. I mainly only felt that the linoleum in the kitchen could stand to be replaced, and I was half-worried that the piano will rot in the hot, sun-filled greenhouse. A fleeting memory of playing Chinese checkers with my Granny on the oval, braided rug in the living room made me nostalgic as I hopped in my truck and buckled Granny in. As we drove back in near-silence to the retirement home, it hit home to me that her home is no longer the little farmhouse we just left. And therefore that farmhouse is not a home, but merely a 3BR/1BA rental property. As the cliche saying goes, “Home Is Where the Heart Is.” We’re all residing in temporary homes of some form or another. I would be remiss not to admit I lifted this blog title from the same title of the Carrie Underwood hit. I won’t quote any lyrics–just take a few minutes to listen to it if you’ve not already heard it. And even if you have, perhaps take another listen.
Thank you, Lord, for homes–however temporary–to reside in. Thank you also for the eternal mansions waiting for us in heaven.