The following is an edited version of an essay first published in 2010. It’s particularly meaningful today as we adapt our home to meet the needs of our large, loving multi-generational family.
In my small house, elbows bump. The tv and radio are too loud. There is clutter and a line for the bathroom. There is straightening hair in the hallway, a crowd at the mirror and chairs wrapped like ribbon around the dinner table. There is teasing over passed gas, stinky bathrooms, everyone-sick-at-the-same-time.
Like a tiny town, there are no secrets in my small house. No sneaking out when you're grounded or cheating-on-your-diet-no-one-will-know. No hiding Reese's Cups or saving the last bit of cheesecake for a solitary midnight snack.
There is noise and chatter and laughter in my small house. There is talking after lights out in shared bedrooms. There is arguing and there is making up.
Tinkling piano keys stream music into every corner of my small house. Flour footprints trail into the hallway and the sweet aroma of warm sugar cookies tickles my nose.
In the spacious back garden my tow-headed 4-year old learns to swing. Her legs catch the wind as she sails into the sky. For two exhilarating hours. Without stopping.
On the street in front of my small house, my competitive 7-year old meets his 6-year old sister's challenge to ride his bike "no hands!" He does her one better, propping his feet on the handlebars: "No feet either!" He hits a curb, tumbles, snaps his collar bone. Three cozy days at home later, he returns to school with half his math book completed.
Early attempts to teach homeschool PE involve giggling circles around a fat, white bark tree. (Later, we use the space to train for competitive team sports.) We watch a mother butterfly lay eggs on a milkweed plant placed at our kitchen table. We chart the progress of her babies from pupa to wet-winged Monarch.
In the living room of my small house I braid wire into my 10-year old's long hair for her lead role in the homeschool musical. Her endearing, high cee voice sings light into the shadows.
We "do school" all over my small house until one by one my babies leave for high school, college and life.
Now, this very minute, wheels rattle across the hardwood floor in my small house. A pony tailed cherub pushes Big Bird into my kitchen office using a little red stroller. Her soft pillow cheeks puff into a smile. "Nonnie!" she sings.
I swoop my grandbaby into the air and kiss her perfect little face.
|So. Much. Love.|
Concrete or wood, tile or carpet; barrier walls or open gardens; a house is just a shell for living. It's what's inside that matters.