Of chocolate cake, sleeping bags, and old houses made new

Sorry to those of you who have already heard parts of this entry.

Since Mike was gone this weekend, all day on Friday I said things like, “Party at my house!” Sometime in the afternoon, I realized that that didn’t make any sense. Seriously, Mike is only four years older than I am. He is not the “responsible adult” in our house. (I am pretty sure no responsible adults live in our house, but that’s another post for another time.) Regardless, when I got home on Friday, I changed immediately into pajamas, checked my email, and settled into bed with a pan of chocolate cake (no plates for me!) in one hand and In the Company of Cheerful Ladies in the other. I managed to finish the book that night, which was exciting. And I fell asleep by 11:00. hehe.

Saturday at work, I was telling my coworker about my super-exciting night and he was teasing me about how I was able to get to work at all after my “wild night.” Saturday night I went out to dinner with some women from church, and came home and settled into bed with Gaudy Night and a glass of wine. Good thing Mike came home Sunday, because something needed to stop the insane calorie consumption that was going on.

When Mike called Sunday morning, the first thing I asked him was how cold he was. In case I didn’t mention it, they were camping. And where we were, it got down in the 30’s, so I knew it was at least that cold where he was. He said, and I quote, “I’m starting to doubt whether my sleeping bag technique is as effective as I thought.” Which lends itself to a story. When I was in college, I didn’t have a sleeping bag, so I had to borrow Mike’s for retreats. Mike’s roommate’s girlfriend (who was a friend of mine) didn’t have a sleeping bag either, so sometimes we’d both be leaving with sleeping bags on the eve of a retreat. Mike and his roommate claimed that when they went camping, they would sleep in the buff in their sleeping bags, because that was what the sleeping bags were designed for as far as keeping the perfect temperature and circulation. My friend and I thought this was: 1. Gross and 2. Nonsense. Mike says that he didn’t (quite) try to sleep in the buff this weekend, but he was freezing nonetheless. I’m trying not to gloat too much. I’m telling you – you have to wear extra clothes if it’s going to be that cold, sleeping bag or not. (Of course, he also insists that if he had taken my sleeping bag – I had to get my own, obviously – which is of slightly higher quality, he would have proven his point. But he’s wrong.)

And, to wind up this freezing cold Monday morning, I thought you might want to hear how I felt about the open house yesterday. When I talked to Mom about it on Thursday or Friday, she said, “I think this is really important to Grandma.” “Yeah,” I said, “I noticed.” We pulled into the yard, and Mom immediately started pointing out things she remembered. “He left the old dinner bell,” she said, “and this room used to be where the men came in and cleaned up from working in the fields.” Mom and her sister and one of her brothers gave me the grand tour, pointing out who had lived in each room, and where my old bed (which used to be my great-grandparents’ bed and is now in our guest room) used to be, and marveling at how much smaller the rooms are than they remember. And Mom and my Uncle Bobby and their cousin Betty took me around to the front of the house (which isn’t all done yet) and showed me the rooms there and the old banister they used to slide down and where they had hung a nerf basketball goal. It was funny, because Mom, my Aunt Nancy, and my Uncle Bobby all told me the same stories independently about which room used to be a porch and where there used to be windows and where the stove used to be and where Great-Grandma used to sit and churn butter. I told Bobby I had never been there before, and he looked at me for a long beat before he said levelly, “No, I guess you haven’t.” Grandma was there, of course, and when I signed the guestbook I saw what she had written: “I don’t have the words for how happy I feel.” I gave Uncle Buddy a hug and said, “Did you know I have never been here?” He looked at me, with his eyes so like Grandma’s, full of kindness and gentleness, and said, “What do you think?” I told him I thought it was wonderful, and he told me how much my mom’s brother (who owns a home improvement company) had helped him. On the way home, I thought about his face and his eyes when he looked at me, and I thought about the kind man that he is, and how hard his life has been, and I cried. I cried for how happy Grandma was, and for all the things Mom has said about how hard Buddy’s children had it (I don’t see them very often, and the oldest daughter, Serena, kept calling me “little Carol” because she said I look just like Mom), and for redemption. The fact that the house is coming back together, that Buddy’s children and Ruby’s children and my aunts and uncles could be there yesterday doesn’t change the painful things that have happened in the past, but it helps. It helped Grandma, as she sat there in her Sunday best. It helped Buddy, as he sat there in his John Deere hat and his overalls. And it helped me, even though I haven’t been hurt by the situation. It helped me to see the strength in my family (which, they would be quick to point out, comes from God) and how they have made it through these hard times by sticking together. There’s something about watching my Grandma and being around her that reminds me of God’s faithfulness. And yesterday that was especially clear.

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