Friday, August 24, 2012

Family Home

This is the house in which I was raised. 
When my parents had it designed, they knew they were building something unique in our neighborhood, unlike the homes up and down the block with ordinary windows and simple lines. Nothing was quite so straightforward about our house. An architect designed it with floor to ceiling windows spanning the whole south side (which faces the view of the town and hills beyond), mahogany accents around doors and on walls and across the top of bookshelves. The whole living/dining/kitchen area has 13' ceilings with walls that only extend up to ledges where my father kept plants and his mug collection...and dust collected as well. 

I remember walking around when only the concrete frame had been poured for this house, and on the plywood subfloor before the framing of the walls were put up. We moved in before it was finished, slept our first few nights crowded together in just a couple of bedrooms. Mom cooked macaroni and cheese on the campstove, and we washed dishes in the big sink in the utility room.  That week--that very week--my middle sister was moved from second grade to third, and my parents actually sat me down and talked to me about it before they even talked to her, because they didn't want me (her older, 4th grade, sister) to feel badly about it.  (I didn't...I was only proud of her)

And I remember being proud that our house was so different than everyone else's house in our town, that rooms weren't square and we didn't have paint but real cedar wood on our house that was merely stained a dark brown. Our roof was flat-ish and covered with pebbles and every now and then, for one reason or another, we were allowed to climb up onto it with Dad. Or later, without him. And we could peer in those high windows down into our house. No other house I knew had windows like those.

I loved that house.

My mother moved out of that house before I was finished, I think. Maybe before any of us were finished. Maybe it's because our Dad left that house one late August morning and didn't know he would never return. He had no idea when he let the garage door close behind him (I can hear the whoosh of air that always made it close with a bang) that it would be the last time. 

I realize I live in a house that was someone else's home once. That some couple, in the very year I was born, talked about and thought about, and decided on just this and not that, and moved in when it was sparkling new and still working the kinks out. I get that.  Each of us who live in homes we didn't build are in a long line of such people. There is history here in our floors and walls and the very space in which we dwell in peace (or not). And I don't do much to honor their memories. I'm too busy creating my own in the 'new' house I now call home.

But when I stand in front of this house--this NW 365 Janet ST, Pullman, WA house--I still think of it as belonging to our family somehow. As ours. And, to tell you the truth, I sometimes get teary thinking that some other family not only lives there but has actually changed what was unique and OURS about it to make it THEIRS. I cringe that it's been painted white, shudder to think that all that beautiful mahogany woodwork has been painted over or removed and that mere drywall has been put up to create ordinary rooms in my family's extraordinary home. You don't have to tell me this is childish for me to feel. I know it full well.
...but it's in me, so I admit it.

And then it hits me.

This is what it means. To live in this temple of the human body. To know that this is the house I have on this earth. THIS I was made for. Designed uniquely, not like any other. With a flare all my own. And when my days here are over, it's okay to mourn the loss of it. For those left.  It's okay for me to mourn the loss of the very large house that is the person of my father-in-law.
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This is the home Beve was raised in (kitty-corner across the street from ours). The house where his giant parents ruled with grace and quiet dignity . His father always made sure there was popcorn popped before dinner and plenty of nuts for late-night snacks.  These days he probably wouldn't recognize this house where  the counters and shower heads--and just about everything else you can imagine--were built extra-tall and he certainly can't do the entertaining he was famous for when he and Beve's beautiful, stately mother called NW 340 Janet St home. Now he's barely home in his own body. Yes, barely home in the most basic of ways. And we're more sad about that than we are about any house of wood and cement, that's for sure. 

 So while it's okay to feel sad that what was so right and good and perfectly home is no longer. That's how I feel about my family home (about my dad) and it's how Beve (and I) feel about his. I'm very, very thankful that--especially right now for Grampie--that the best truth is that there's a better home awaiting. A more perfect home. Designed well. Architected by the ONE who created us in the first place.
It will be our true dwelling in every way.


Pamela M. Steiner said...

I can so relate to this, esp. the first part about your childhood home. When my Daddy died last year, we had to say goodbye to the home that my daddy built, that I grew up in from age 7 until I left it to get married at almost 19, that my parents lived in for over 50 years, together until my mother died 5 years before my Daddy. But you are so right about what our true home is, where it is, and the lasting value of that home. I miss my family home and don't even like to drive by it knowing that my parents aren't there anymore, but I know where my parents are, and I know that I will see them again someday in the home that rust, dust and new paint cannot corrupt or destroy. Yep, I so understand all of what you wrote, and I feel it with you, deeply. (((hugs))))
From A sister in Christ.

jeskmom said...

Thanks, Pam. Not everyone understands this so well. In fact, on the few occasions I've voiced it before, I've had the person look at me with the tilted head of a bewildered puppy. So it's nice to be understood. And sometimes I have to speak (write) these eternal truths so that I don't dwell on the sorrow of the physical loss. Does that make sense?

Stephanie said...

My husband and I are the current residents of your parents' beautiful home on Janet St. We love the house so much and comment almost every day that it's the best house in Pullman. I ran across your blog by Googling the address to see what more I could learn online about our home's history. We recently visited an architecture exhibit in Spokane specifically to learn more about Mr. Kundig, the house's architech. We really love the house :)

We have the original house plans. Would you like copies of them...or even the originals? Please feel free to get in touch, and know that we've kept the modern spirit of your dad's design very much intact.