This week, I packed the kids in the car and we drove the five hours up to Herndon, Virginia, the town where I grew up, to help clear the last of the stuff out of the house I grew up in. We haven’t lived there in years, but my dad still owned it and had been trying to sell it for a few years.
Well, this past month, the house finally sold. The whole process over the last 10 years has come with lots of stress (for my dad), so many potential buyers and people backing out, different tenants (some good, some bad, and some very ugly)… but the whole time I never really felt like I had “closure” on that house and that part of my life.
It was the house the built me… in every sense of the phrase. And I wish I could tell the new buyers so much about it. They didn’t just buy a house. It wasn’t just a house. I will never be just a house. It’s not something I think I will ever be able to fully put into words that are adequate to describe it (or will ever give it justice, if that makes any sense).
The house that built me… it’s not just some historic, 100+ year old home.
I mean, sure, there’s some pretty cool history behind it… but that’s not what was important about that house. The Jackson Street house wasn’t just a place where people slept and meals were made, it was so much more than that.
My mom bought the house in 1982 and it was basically a shell… no central air, barely any running water, and all the problems normally associated with an old home came right along with it. At that time she never thought of anything, but she walked into the house, saw the bay window, pictured a Christmas tree in that bay window and said, “This is it. This is the house.”
She bought the house because she saw the potential. She realized it was special. She knew it wasn’t just a house.
I want you to know all the things that this house was… because, it wasn’t just a house
It was a wedding chapel.
My own mother and father said their wedding vows in the living room. They said their “till death do us parts” in that bay window in front of their closest family and friends. They promised to love one another. They shared something so sacred right in the same spot we would later, as a family, open Christmas presents.
It was so beloved that another couple said their wedding vows in the living room, too! I was a flower girl in that wedding!
It’s the place where my parents dedicated me in the name of the Lord.
I was Christened in that living room. It was the place where some water was placed on my head, a prayer was prayed over me, and my parents promised to raise me with love and truth and grace.
It’s the home where lives were changed.
I can’t even count how many people stepped foot in our home at their lowest point in their lives. Anyone who needed help – didn’t matter who they were – my parents took them in. We had so many different people live with us over the years and my parents would help them through whatever they were going through. If they needed a roof over their head, we were there. If they were in recovery, we were there. If they were hungry, we fed them. If they needed a warm bed, we gave them a place to rest.
I saw people come in broken and leave changed.
It’s where mouths were fed.
Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, my parents would open up our home to anyone who didn’t have a place to go for the holiday and we would feed them. I remember one particular holiday where we had so many people (close to 50, I think!) we cooked TWO 25+ pound turkeys and had so. many. snacking. pies.
Snacking pies, for those that aren’t aware, are the pies you snack on BEFORE the main course. 🙂
My mom and dad always wanted people to have a place to eat and no one went without.
It’s where the door was always open.
My house was “the house” that everyone went to. You didn’t knock… you just walked it. Didn’t matter. Everyone would come over to my house to play and hang out and the moment you walked in, my mom was offering to fix a snack or pour some lemonade. It was a safe haven for me, my friends, and so many people.
It’s where slumber parties and all-nighters happened.
I can remember slumber parties where there would literally be 20 people on my living room floor in sleeping bags and blankets and pillows. We’d stay up all night watching MTV or VH-1 or just hanging out and laughing. We’d build epic forts and play hide-and-seek.
It was the hub for birthday parties, anniversaries, cookouts, and celebrations.
There was all the Christmas decorations (making my dad climb the GIANT pine tree to hang the star!), the Halloween decorations, and watching fireworks from the front lawn.
It’s the house where I took my first steps, said my first words, carved my name in the sidewalk out front, read my first book. It’s the house where my mom got sick. It’s the house where I hugged her and kissed her and saw her smile for the very last time. It’s the house where she took her last breath.
It wasn’t just a house. And anyone who had ever stepped foot through it’s front doors will tell you the same thing.
It was truly a special place. It was the epitome of and the very definition of the house that built me.
I took my kids to see my mom before we left town. Trying to explain to them, especially Lilly, at this age what it meant for mommy’s mommy to be there was tough and not something I really ever expected to be so tough.
To me, it was important to share this with them, even at this age. I know if she were here today, she would love them and be such an amazing grandmother. I miss her all the time, but especially in moments like this.
When we were driving out of town, a huge rainbow appeared in the sky… I felt this wave of comfort come over me and I felt like it was a little message from my mom saying, “I’m here and I see you and I’m watching over you.”
And I couldn’t help but smile.