Monday, September 26, 2011

Empty Rooms

I started this post several weekends ago... but couldn't quite find the "right enough" words to express my thoughts. Over my almost 28 years of life, I've learned a  few small things about myself, and I am sure of approximately 4 of them. 

Item #1 - I prefer punctual people.
Item #2 - I will not give up... ever.... on anything... even when it's definitely time to give up
Item #3 - I'll never look good in bright orange - no big loss
Item #4 - Emotions for me take awhile to settle in; particularly the heavy sort.

Let us discuss Item #4 (apologies for those of you hoping for a dramatic epilogue on how I discovered I'd never look good in bright orange.... there's a time and a season my friends... a time and a season). We all go through experiences in life that cause us some deep stirrings within. Some of these stirrings can start out feeling very negative; much like when your first pet dies or your heart is broken by some estranged love. These things can seem very negative, but I am of the belief that even our most trying of times are meant for our good.. I believe God does not allow us to suffer through our own Gethsemene's for His own sport. The storm always comes to an end, the sun always shines again, and a million other allusions that there is an end to all things hurtful. There is a greater purpose to all things; and that purpose is always bigger than the hurt we had to experience to bring it about.

That said, when these things happen to me, I'm not an immediate reactor. I internalize it for awhile... mull it over... pick at it sometimes... and let it settle. It takes me time to wrap myself around these deep emotional stirrings.

Thus, I think I've mulled enough upon this particular emotional stirring.

There's the paradoxical truth that the only constant thing in this world is change. Change takes on many forms and in some instances it's welcomed, in others it's a refiners fire that stings as it goes, and almost always, change is the constant companion of that steady plodder, Time. Change is inevitable. Time is inevitable. And together they give us everything from the history of nations, to the memory of our first football game. Time plods forward with change ever in its wake. And it turns out, none of us are immune to their devices.

For almost 28 years there's been one place that's always been called "Home." And it's this place:

Maybe it's not too much to look at; but I didn't want to digitally doctor it up to produce some sort of eery "days gone by" feel. I wanted it to be seen as it actually is... with the door open and Grandpa's dog out front. So though it may not look like much, six lives were lived within this comparatively inconsequential edifice and six lives were for 28 years, forming and being and growing within these walls. Several weekends ago, that changed.

It's been said that in America, we have this unusual desire to remove the shekels of our homesteads and strike out on our own - seeking our own plod of land to cultivate our lives how we've always dreamed they should be. Independence is the American dream and in this quest, I believe, we also must accept the fact we've inevitably become the most nostalgic people in the world. As we continually search for that next great thing: the better job, the higher pay, the degrees, the family of our own, we tend to forget to consider what brought us there. What is responsible for the way we are and what we will be. The little things we kept with us despite the ebb and flow of our very important lives. The times when we realized "oh my gosh I sound just like my mother!"

It seems the only thing that can hold our attention long enough to force us to consider what once was usually comes in the form of some if those poignant moments that cause deep stirrings within us. Many times this is a death of someone we assumed would live forever. And then they're not there and we must pause in our continual quest for the next thing and realize, we are but pawns being herded within the boundaries of time and change. Death makes us self-reflect: is this the best thing I could be doing?

And then comes one memory and then another and another until there are hundreds of memories begging for remembrance... asking us to consider the past so we can better shape our future. So we can take advantage of what little Time actually gives us.

These may seem like empty rooms. Maybe that's because literally, they are empty rooms. My brothers and I, several weekends ago, helped empty the rooms of the place we'd called home all of our lives. We had experienced over the last decade, a refining of our characters, a testing of our faith and patience, and a cultivation of hope for better things. As we emptied this house of our earthly effects, the memories began to swirl in the air and stick to the walls. It was like going through a deceased loved ones things; now realizing that the life had gone out of them too. Somehow, these things didn't belong anywhere new. It only ever belonged here, with this house, and it was almost blaspheme to take them away. They'll never really be empty rooms to us.

Here's where Seth and I had our bunkbeds. We were jumping off the top bunk onto a magnificent pile of blankets when I slipped sidewards to the ground and broke my leg. I was barely in Pre-school and our littlest edition, Nick, and just come home from the hospital.  Taylor wasn't even a twinkle in our mother's eye then.

I remember another time in this room when Seth and I had a stack of books between us as we sat Indian style on the floor. We would take a book, usually a Bernstein Bears or Dr. Seuss, read/glance through it's pages, and put it in a discard pile to each side of us. We'd been doing this quietly for sometime when I felt the rumble begin. I glanced up to see the diaper changing station wobble precariously in front of us and when I turned to see Seth's take on the happenings, he had bolted from the room. It was then I learned the concept of "every man for himself!" It was the first time I felt an earthquake... and the first time I realized my ability to keep calm in a crisis. It was only later in bed, that the fear in my heart was allowed to roam free and I cried myself to sleep.

We had family home evenings in this room. My dad built it himself. Our family had grown and we needed more space to stretch our legs.

In this room was our upright piano where we each were chained for hours practicing our cords.We also weren't allowed to eat in this room. At least one room was to remain respectable. Somehow though, mom was still vacuuming bits of this or that from between the couch cushions.

In this room dinner was always promptly at 5:00pm and we'd gather around a home cooked meal and enjoy each others company. I will always have family dinners. Family dinners is the reason I graduated high school, went on to college, and am a (mostly) well-adjusted self-sustaining adult.

Being the only girl of four children, this room was my very own. Except there were stenciled sunflowers on the walls then and I was always very proud of the fact my room was shaped like Utah. I think having this geographically structured room ignited my love of maps and I'd spend hours pouring over our Atlas, tracing the routes I would one day take to different lands. I was already plotting my independence. Of course when I moved out it became Seth's room then Taylor's room then Nick's room. Or something like that.

We built grand cities with couch cushions and blankets in these empty rooms. We rode mattresses down the stairs. We watched thousands of movies, cleaned up dog poop, hid stray kittens under the back stairs, jumped out of windows and balcony's onto trampolines, swung on tree branches, broke arms, bruised legs, got stitches, burned popcorn, stained walls, celebrated birthdays, Christmas's, new years, baked, laughed, cried, fought, prayed, kissed, hugged, played video games, and slept. We lived real lives within these walls.

And now these walls are no longer ours.

And Time trudges on... hand in hand with change... but we keep the memories with us. The deep stirrings within remind us that even though there are empty rooms  where there was once living and being and loving; we can still keep on living, and loving, and changing, and being no matter what walls surround us. We create homes within ourselves; building up walls with the people we love most. Our house may not be "our house" anymore, but the rooms of our memories are forever ours. They are forever full.


Mrs. Walker said...

Awe! I have such fond memories of your home there in Huntington. I remember watching What Lies Beneath (or some other scary movie) and nearly wetting myself. Your home was one of those that everyone loves, that is open and a fun hang out. Cheers to you for remembering your roots, and being able to put your emotions into well written verses.

Jaime Van Hoose Steele said...

I like this post! You're lucky you got to grow up in one house your whole life. I always wanted that. We moved around a lot so by the time I graduated from High School I had lived in 6 different houses. Now you have me thinking of all my great memories growing up...childhood memories are the best!!

Nasher said...

Good job. Would you write a post like this for my house too? My parents still live there, but one day they will die and it will get sold.

Andrea Jolene said...

Pete - I'll make sure to check the obituaries ;)

Jaime - yes, I'm very lucky to have lived in the same place. It's bittersweet in many respects. Yeah for childhood!

Melisa - So glad our house has good (albeit scary) memories for you too. Man, that show is creepy. Shudder.

Marisa Jean said...

I always lived in the same house, too. I've never thought about what it would feel like for it to be definintely holds all my childhood memories. Now that I have a child, I think about all the memories we have here and how difficult it would be to leave them behind. Huh...very thought provoking. Great post, but sorry about the house. :(

Just a thought... said...

Oh my gosh! We have the same exact light fixture currently hanging over our kitchen table! Please tell me yours isn't original to the house?!?

Andrea Jolene said...

Ha - it's not the original. I'm pretty sure we put it there.

Anonymous said...

Yes Andrea, I did get tears in my eyes reading this one.. I remember when your dad built that addition, it was like, a whole other house (or felt like it so to speak when we were little--er ) There were some memories that were tucked in the back of my brain that jumped out as soon as I read the words your wrote. There are also a few memories I have of that house that are not mentioned in here BUT I think you did awesome to sum it up..