Friday, March 5, 2021

Once Upon A House

When I was three months shy of five years old my family moved to a house in the newly built section of a sweet sprawling neighborhood in the New Jersey suburbs. 

My dad was in the Marine Corps, stationed in Philadelphia, and we had moved four times prior to this since my birth. That would be about once a year if you're counting, and my mom and older siblings many more times than that. My mom was primarily a true homemaker who lovingly cared for the man she'd married and the people she'd birthed. 

In this house she transformed a pound of hamburger into a delicious meal for six. She made us eat our spinach too, because spinach makes you strong.  

She brushed our tangles, dried our tears, and soothed skinned knees and broken hearts with a bandaid and caress. 

She assigned us chores, mediated our ridiculous sibling disputes (I swept the floor last night-it's her turn!!), and she read to us from a never-ending stack of books piled beside the bed, tucked into shelves, and borrowed from the library. 

She said grace over meals and bigger prayers over us, and she grew a garden that bloomed all the colors of the rainbow. 

She sewed and crafted and made Christmas morning pure magic. 

She is the one who made that house our home. 

For more than fifty years it's been a touchstone in my life, and in the lives of my husband, my children, and my siblings. No matter where in this world we may roam, we have always come home, always opened that front door to the scent of love and memory. 

My dad passed away many years ago, but my mom still lives in the house we all call home. Still makes her bed and pulls weeds from the flower pots beside her front door... still sips her coffee with a view to the backyard. 

Still welcomes us in with arms wide open.  

We know we're the lucky ones. Know we are so very fortunate to have spent all these years gathering as a family in a single well loved house. To be the ages we are now still coming home to the blessed familiar. In our heads we know it's 'just a house' even if it isn't just a house. 

Time will have it's way with us whether we wish it so or not. 

We empty closets and make trips to Goodwill. We pull out teapots and angels from her collection of pretty things, and wonder aloud why there are so many safety pins and measuring cups and if anyone really needs three flour sifters? We choose artwork painted by my grandpa under a bright blue Albuquerque sky a long time ago or was it only yesterday? 

We sort through books, old fashioned records, slide carousels, and my Grandma's china, keeping just a few things we treasure but holding tight to all the memories of what makes them so.  

Soon my mom will move into a new old space. She'll make her home with my sister and her family in an apartment they've created in their house. Familiar but not in a way that's part of her, not yet anyway. 

Can a house be part of you?  

They've created a lovely spacious place, one where she'll have privacy and company in a season where we all need a bit of both. There is room for her things but not all the things. 

How do you decide which after fifty plus years? 

We tell her to count her blessings and she does. To know she is doing the right thing and she is. To know it will be okay and it will. 

But I'm my mama's girl and I understand the way your mind travels back instead of forward now and then. I understand too why you let it. 

How for just a moment you want to be that mom driving your son to his guitar lesson, stirring cocoa made from scratch for red nosed children coming in from the snow, dressing a baby doll as a Christmas morning surprise because your number three child will love it so. 

And I want to say to her you are that mom. 

You will always be that mom. 

We are so grateful for the memories. 

missing my oldest sissy P here who couldn't travel north last week 

We are grateful for the now.


  1. I love this. That house feels home to me too from years of Christmas’ and dress up clothes and watching meet me in at Louis on vhs for the 100th time.

  2. Your mom sounds so much like my own who made every parsonage we lived in a home - a safe place to always come back to. After my dad died, she no longer had a house to live in - parishioners reclaim what's theirs at that point - so we moved her near us. I feel yours and your mother's pain in this upheaval and change, yet like my mother, yours will also make it work. They are just made that way. Women full of faith and trust and more strength than I will probably ever know. Blessings to your sweet mom as she embraces these new days.

  3. Awww... beautifully written, Joyce. You are so good with putting your feelings into words we all understand and can feel. Your mom is so blessed and her new apartment will soon feel like home for her and for all of you. Blessings!!

  4. You have such a way with words. This post brought me right along with you through all the memories with your mom. I hope the transition to her new home goes smoothly.

  5. Aw, what a wonderful tribute to your mom and all the memories her home, her love, and her attention have provided for you all. Change is never easy.

  6. Another lovely post Joyce. Of course it will be hard for your Mum to make this transition but with loving family members like you it will be much easier. Hope it goes smoothly.

  7. You are right. The memories are always there and it’s what I held on to when my Mom battled Alzheimers. How wonderful she will be with your sister.

  8. Beautifully written. Hoping this transition goes well and all will be comforted in knowing your dear mom will be well cared for.

  9. Beautiful tribute joyce I lost my house to s fire but I grew up there and later bought it all the memories were overwhelming. Tears in my eyes, thank you for sharing joyce.

  10. You certainly have a gift to write. This post is so beautiful. I wish her all the best and pray her new place will feel like home in no time at all.

  11. Beautiful touching!

  12. Tanya mentioned this post in her post today and I'm so glad she did because I had missed it and it's much to sweet to miss. Bless your Momma's heart. I pray she will adjust well and enjoy her "new place" for several years. One day, if we live long enough, we'll all be forced to let go of those things we love. I pray I can do it with an open mind and a whole lot of grace, knowing it's all for the best. Happy weekend!