Boo and I have lived in our home for almost nineteen years. This is the longest I have ever lived in the same house. I mean ever. We have seen our aging neighbor through the death of his wife. We’ve seen the young couples on our street have babies and now I see those babies waiting for the school bus in front of our house. We share our over-the-top holiday decorations with the thousands of twinkling lights, and life-size blowups of Olaf, dancing penguins, Santa, and his reindeer. We invite young mothers with fussy toddlers in strollers to pet our black cat, Emmy. It feels like home. I don’t think God will ever ask me if I lived in a good neighborhood, but He might ask me if I was a good neighbor, and I hope to answer a resounding yes! I feel a part of life, here. I feel safe.
When I was born, my parents, brother, and I lived on Crockett Street in Amarillo, Texas. It was a small, stucco starter home, with a detached garage that my dad and grandpa built. My brother had a gang of boys to play with and luckily there was a little girl next door for me. However, when I was four, as my mother’s illness progressed, it became necessary to sell our home to help with medical bills. Thus, we moved to a rent house across from Amarillo Junior College. My mother died shortly after that, and we moved again because my father could not bear to live where my mother had died. Luckily, a Methodist preacher and his family were moving to Chicago, so we rented their modest home right down the street and there we stayed for about five years.
When I was ten we moved across town to an upgraded neighborhood, and I started sixth grade as the ‘new girl.’ We did live there for nine years and after that, I went to college. Even at Baylor, I bounced around to two different dorms my freshman year. My sophomore and Junior years were stable, and then I got married and moved to an apartment in Waco, and the next year we moved to Killeen, Texas to start a new life and teaching career.
I will not bore you with the gory details of each one of my moves, but within that marriage we did move twice. Then there was a devastating divorce and that’s really when my moves escalated. As a single mom on a schoolteacher’s salary, I had exactly $525 to spend on housing. No more. I was constantly on the lookout for a newer, bigger rent house for the same amount of money in the same school zone. There were two moves before I remarried, then a huge uprooting to North Carolina. To simplify matters, let’s just say within the next ten years there were four moves, another unsightly divorce, and a plan to move to Austin.
Obviously, one could argue that I am unstable, a rolling stone, or an excitement junkie. But I plead irreconcilable circumstances and bouts of insanity. I became the queen of creativity. I could unpack boxes, set up beds and hang all the pictures in two days flat. I would use my rent deposit refund to pay my next rent deposit, and I always left each house a little better than I found it. I was resourceful, frugal, and as Blanche DuBois said in A Streetcar Named Desire, “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”
Now, all this to say there have been downsides to my gypsy ways. My family has never written my address in anything but pencil. My youngest daughter blames me for her trust issues, the U.S. Postal Service still sends me change of address cards each summer, and it is hard for me to pass up a “good moving box.”
Perhaps I have been a wanderer. It wasn’t my objective; I just fell into it. Each move, each house meant something special to me, and I pinky swear that I never meant to harm my children or anyone else by moving. I know I did the best I could.
With every new house, my intentions were pure. I made it a home because by my definition, home is where the heart is and as long as I was there, my children would be safe and could be happy. My modest meals like baked chicken in Italian salad dressing with a plain iceberg salad and lots of Ranch were the alternative to fish sticks and mac n’ cheese. I wouldn’t say boring, but I might say dependable. There was nothing fancy about our lifestyle, yet the girls were afforded new curtains and bedspreads to spruce up even the dreariest of shag carpets. We survived and more. We’re strong women, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and make a home from the barest of frames.
But now… Now that I have this home with Boo, and we have made it ours, I have roots. Settled in ways I never knew I needed. Anchored with a firm foundation of faith and family. Grounded with grandchildren that each consider our guest room as ‘their room,’ and brick by brick we have built beautiful memories with years of love and laughter. I feel so lucky.
When my time here on earth has ended, I fully believe God will not ask the square footage of my home or the brand of hardwood floors or granite counters, but He may ask how many people I welcomed in with open arms. He may ask me if I offered those without some of what I had, and He will probably ask if I loved others well. I hope my answers will be satisfactory, as that has always been my aim.
For you know what I say is true, a house is not a home unless it’s full of the good stuff, like love, laughter, and respect, and that is all anyone could ever want.