17 October 2009
ode to a house
so the other day i drove up to salt lake to move the rest of my stuff out of my childhood home, and on the 15th my parents handed over the keys to renters. right now some strangers are waking up in 1098 augusta way (affectionately known as j.b. mopeltel) and they have absolutely no idea, and never could, what they are dealing with.
every inch, every corner, every crack of that house is soaking with memories and the air is different inside that place than anywhere else in the world. it is mixed with millions of sacred moments; expressions of testimony and love, sighs of relief and frustration, gasps for breath from emotional times, wiffs of special scents from christmas or family recipes or fires in the living room, and dribbled with wafting sounds of laughter and tears. thirty-five years, nine kids: indeed, millions of memories. i wonder if the renters feel a buzz in the air? can they sometimes catch a glimpse of the joy and growth and love seeping out of the corners?
today i want to offer a tribute to the house, to HOME. i could never offer a discourse lengthy or eloquent enough, but for now i feel it would be therapeutic to remember and write and capture and record what that sacred place means to me. let's start with the front door.
it was hand carved by my dad: a big tree on top and the letters e-y-r-e on bottom. i wonder if that perplexes the renters? maybe along with the cement slab on the front walkway with everyone's handprints eternally captured in it? the door has two knockers on it fashioned like lion's heads; a big one on top and a little one on the bottom. even just that doorstep carries lots of memories: countless asks and answers for high school dances, thousands of trick-or-treaters, many awkward date drop-offs, surprise visitors, returned missionaries and college graduates, and just all the comings and goings. walk in the front door and there's the ancestor wall, riddled with framed photos of our forefathers. it was there that i stood every first day of school but one and smiled for the camera and i bet the ancestors behind me flashed a little grin from time to time too. and in that little alcove by the front door was where we would gather to pray before someone left. "HUDDLE!" my dad would holler and usually after some huffing and puffing we would come together, throw our arms around each other in a circle and offer thanks and petitions to heavenly father. he watched over that house through the years, he sure did. thousands upon thousands of prayers ascending heavenward from within those walls.
the most sacred place in the house is the living room with the musical instrument wall, grand piano, china hutch, grandfather clock, family portrait, and floral couch. in that holy place hundreds of priesthood blessings were administered for birthdays, new school years, new adventures, and the setting-apart of 9 missionaries. we would all gather there in the early mornings for scripture study before school, groggy and hazy. when mom and dad would leave on a trip, we would all sit close to each other so dad could touch all of us at the same time and give us a blessing of safety and comfort. and every fast sunday we gathered in that room and shared with each other our feelings about the gospel, our saviour, and each other. then we'd all kneel around the coffee table - i can still feel it's ridges on my forearms when folded - and pray to god. by then we were eager to eat, and now i wish i would have savored those kneeling moments a bit more. i can't fathom that the renters could walk into that room and not feel something a little special, for there so many tender words were offered, so much exquisite feeling of the spirit was felt, truth was confirmed to eleven hearts over and over, and the deepest of love was expressed and embraced. that love and testimony has to have gone at least an inch deep into the wood floorboards and marble mantle and glass sliding doors leading to the balcony.
i remember lots of nights at home when someone would holler "look at the sunset!" and we'd all race into that sacred living room and marvel together at the gorgeous handiwork of god. we recognized them as little messages from a loving heavenly father, just small reminders that he loves us. from the balcony we could see the city and the valley and the mountains glimmer in the last rays of light. during the olympics in salt lake i remember oohing at the fireworks every night. i loved that from my house i could always see the temple.
that sacred living room was also the main location for christmas festivities and traditions. the day after thanksgiving we picked out the trees and brought the big one into the living room and consequently spent hours and hours placing lights and ornaments: apples, sand dollars, santas, trumpets and horns, ornaments from all over the world, red and green ribbons...and after all those hours, the angel on top. for 30 days or so that tree would sparkle in that sacred room, smelling of christmas joy and getting us full of the spirit of the season. on christmas eve we reenacted the christmas story in the living room, crammed in there together and then sang "away in a manger" and "in a little stable." christmas morning we lined up outside that room, dad having put a sheet over the opening so we couldn't peek, and youngest to oldest we'd enter and gasp at the glory of it all glimmering in christmas morning light. so many presents given and received, hugs and surprises and glee. maybe the renters can hear christmas music (manheim steamroller or the eddie bauer mix) playing really faint from time to time, or catch a wiff of the tree? i wonder.
or maybe they can catch the sound of the prophets' voices wafting through the air...i remember every general conference the old, old stereo in the living room blasting the words of prophets and apostles along with every tv in the house on full blast. i loved it when mom would put on pretty classical music and it would ring in our ears as we came home from school. in that sacred living room we also had the dining table, where we'd have fancy meals on that green china. and when each sibling found their one and only, we'd have send-off parties there the night before the wedding. so many tributes to beloved brothers and sisters, laughs, and music of course. i guess it was in that room that i really came to appreciate and love the magic of music and i spent so many hours there practicing the violin, the piano and finally the flute. we'd play together sometimes or sing carols. all those beautiful sounds reverberating off the walls.
my room was down the hall from the sacred living room - it used to be noah's, and josh's before that - back when i lived in the "cloud room" or downstairs. i remember when i moved upstairs again and mom offered to help me remodel a little. it was such an adventure making my room just how i wanted it, and it remained quite junior high-ish until that fateful day this week when i left it sparce and bare. i spent so many late nights in that room, finding myself in a way. i would stay up and read old journals or scrapbooks or letters and be filled with nostalgia and desire to live passionately. i think back on so many nights crying myself to sleep from some devastating adolescent problem or a fight. and so many mornings waking up to the soft light streaming in through those white shutters and the sound of the quakie aspens tinkling in the canyon breeze. over my bed hung big gold letters - D-R-E-A-M. so many dreams were formulated there in that room.
and down the hall was mom and dad's room. when i got scared at night as a little girl, this was the place to go and find instant comfort. i can distinctly remember the night i went into climb into bed with mom and dad after having a bad dream and they declared that i was too old for that. and my trips to that room turned into quiet greetings in the dark letting my parents know i was home just in time for curfew. i learned over the years exactly how the floorboards in that hall sounded when someone was walking by my bedroom door. i always knew if it was mom or dad and they'd stop by, crack the door, tell me to stop reading and go to bed and tell me they loved me. i wonder if it creaks differently under those renter's feet? and if they even notice what a loving and wonderful sound it is?
and while we're upstairs, how about all the memories in the kitchen? when i think of that room, i think of crowded, stuffed full of people and good times. there we made countless batches of cookies, laid out food for hundreds of family gatherings, and ate dinner together as a family nearly every night. it was around the table in that room that we played games like giving one-minute speeches on a topic of dad's choice or deciding together what was similar between two very dissimilar things. there we shared what we learned in church and school and had discussions of every kind over all the years. what do the renters talk about around that table, i wonder? i bet it is easier for the two of them to get into a good dinner conversation that it was for all of us. if i close my eyes and think of that place i can just see dad at the head of the table, chaos all around him, with his elbows on the table, forearms up and thumb and middle finger together like a buddhist monk. "ommmmmmmmm," he would say, trying to get us to simmer down and be quiet. some joined in, some got annoyed, and mom hollered that she'd be there as soon as she could, she was just getting the rolls out of the oven. there are so many more memories in that beloved kitchen!
besides the table, the focal point of the kitchen was the fighting bench against the south wall. i spent a lot of time on that hard bench, summoning up the humility to say sorry to my brother for a fight i was thoroughly convinced was completely 100% his fault. there on that little bench in that little kitchen thousands of apologies were offered, most were accepted, and hugs were given - usually quick and for the sole purpose of obtaining a ticket off the fighting bench - but it's tender to me just the same. i guess those walls contain a lot of bickering and yelling and cutting words, but more sweet apologies and reconciliations and realizations of love, appreciation, adoration and care.
let's move downstairs. the renters could never imagine all that went down in that basement. i think of slumber parties, birthday parties, hanging out with friends and dad coming down and asking us to be quiet, fires in the old stove, and watching movies. i had some awesome times with friends over the years in that basement. for some reason or another, our house was always where my friends and i ended up and i found real friendship there from preschool to just last week when my two great friends from high school came for one last sleepover. i remember seeing my siblings' friends there, crushes that developed there, movies that were made there, dares that were performed there, and so much more. downstairs was the beloved laundry room with the funny circus wallpaper and nine individual units where we kept all our stuff, and the yellow folding table. now that i'm thinking about it i realize that one of the most forlorn moments that i had while helping mom and dad move out was when i opened the costume drawers in the downstairs hall and they were empty. my friends and family and i had such a blast with all the random stuff we kept stuffed in those drawers. probably something much more sensible lives in them now.
oh man, i feel like there is so much more i could write...the outside of the house holds a million memories too, like hot-tubbing in the dead of winter surrounded in snow, basketball tournaments in the back yard, dogs and cats and puppies. and laying on the front lawn was where i received the most direct and obvious answer to prayer ever in my life. god told me to go to wellesley under those quakie aspens and it was the most supernal peace i've ever experienced. oh, and speaking of those trees in the front yard, they had to have been toilet-papered at least one hundred times. it brings a smile to my face to remember waking up, looking outside, wondering if it had snowed and realizing that it was just TP. dad would get so angry and we'd spent lots of time unraveling it from the trees.
so many memories. what a sacred, sepcial, wonderful place, nestled in the east mountains of salt lake city, stuffed to the brim and overflowing with tradition, experience, growing up, and love. to me, that place, good old 1098 augusta way, will always be home and no matter who is living in it, it will always be mine. my heart is there and will never leave.
leaving that house behind means a lot more to me than just the house, and it has been a traumatic experience saying goodbye.
i love that place. it is holy ground.
mom, dad and i went to the house right before i left to come back to provo and knelt in the living room and offered a prayer to heavenly father, thanking him for all the memories and all the joys and all the growth there. we asked god to watch over and always protect that sacred place. i know he will.
sorry this is so long. we've only scratched the surface.