New Traditions

For the last too long to recall years I’ve thought of Thanksgiving as a holiday of tradition. When I was a kid we did the same thing every year on turkey day. We did a family thing. Whether it was a large gathering or small it was always with family.

My family changed over the years a lot. My parents divorced and there were step-parents and step family. There were some years I didn’t even see my mom. That’s for another post . And some years I had boyfriends and chose to spend my holiday with them.

Some years were fun and comforting other years the celebrations somber or even angry. But the permeating theme for me was family and friends gathering. And also food food food.

When my dad was married to his second wife we ate chicken as he hated turkey. But we still got out the good China and sat down and thanked God and got down to some good eating.

When I was in college the holidays became a game of driving from one parents gathering to another with a hopeful stop at some friends in between. But I actually liked this musical chairs and of course the multiple meals.

After I was married a few years we took over the hosting of Thanksgiving from my in laws. My husbands family is large. With six sons and their families often we had 25 or more at our home. We shared food duty. Everyone bringing something but it was a huge amount of work but for me it was pure joy. I had always wanted to be part of a large family.

So as luck would have it I married into this big family and as I said I took over hosting the family. And I loved it. About five years ago things changed as my in laws began their decline. My father in law had dementia and my mother in law suffered a fall she never really recovered from and neither of them could travel to my home to celebrate. So things changed.

Some years we brought the feast to them. Their house filled with family and food was eaten with my mother in law acquiescing control to others in her home and my father in law tidying up as we finished as his need to keep order was calming to him as his Dementia worsened and he eventually didn’t know who he was tidying up after.

And as those years progressed we began to take turns and go over separately. Each family visiting them alone for a bit but trying to overlap so we could see some of the others in the family. Sometimes a big bunch of us would still end up there and my in laws seemed to fare ok. I have so many pictures of us sitting on their sofa with them. I miss that.

Kevin’s big family was growing more with grandkids marrying and great grandkids being born. And those expanding families began new traditions of having their holidays with their new brood. It’s just what happens. But I miss them. Today I’ll miss all that chaos.

We lost Kevin’s parents recently and my dad as well though I didn’t see him on Thanksgiving typically but we always spoke. My mom now lives with us. With all the changes – especially with the loss of my mother in law – we are all figuring out what the holidays will look like now.

My family – my three teen kids- my mom – and Kevin and I – talked about what would be a fun new tradition for us. We decided we wanted to do the holidays at our new beach house.

We invited the extended family as our doors are always open but this year they are all trying on their new traditions as the beacons that brought us together are now gone.

Though I’m sad for all the losses -I’m really excited for this new way of celebrating. Since my last surgery I’ve been feeling better. I still have some pain that will hopefully improve but I’m able to cook again. I’m not cooking the meal! No. Bethany Blues – a great restaurant nearby- made the dinner. We began to order our holiday meals not long after I got cancer. Making the entire meal is too overwhelming – so I made desserts with my mom. We have one more pie to bake today. Then all I have to do is heat the meal up later. I actually like to cook and I’m thankful that I’m now able to do so but I just can’t physically make such a big feast -and frankly I like the ability to relax with family on the holiday. My kitchen duties are much less this way.

I will miss the big family gathering and we are now trying to make sure we all find some way at least once a year to try to get Kevin’s brothers and families together at some point. I suspect it’s going to be hard especially as the families expand but it’s important to try I think. I have one brother and it’s infinitely hard for us to get together. Getting six families together will be challenging.

I’ll miss seeing my mother in law. If she was still here we’d be going to see her today at her assisted living facility. But I know she was in pain and unhappy living there. She tried to make the best of it but I’m glad the Lord called her home to be at peace. But she won’t be out of my head today.

So here I am writing this at the beach house. Kevin and my daughter have left and are off to run in a Turkey Trot together. I don’t trot except for on a horse -and I think this is a nice father daughter tradition.

I think I’ll honor my dad today by spreading more of his ashes in my garden. I feel he’s a part of this house – a place he never has been but a place I would have never had if it weren’t for him.

I’ve found things can change so fast and we have to learn to ride the waves. I have had many changes in my life and seem to have managed to morph as needed. It’s not always easy. Many times I’ve dragged myself into the next iteration of life kicking and screaming. But this new way of being together over the holidays is exciting to me.

Tomorrow we will go to Lowe’s to pick up our new fake tree that we will set up here at the beach house and will decorate this weekend in preparation to have Christmas here. We will have a tree at home in Maryland too Just in case the weather strands us there. It’s all about being flexible.

So today I will be thankful for many things. Family and food and improving health. And I’ll be thankful for new traditions. It’s change that makes us grow. As my dad would have said “it will put hair on your chest” (for years I didn’t get that but I do now. My dad’s sayings – Lord I miss those!).

Happy Thanksgiving – with love from me.

Those little empty spaces- leaving them be.

I haven’t been to the barn since our barn cat Mango was hit and killed by a car last Wednesday. I’ve been recuperating from surgery. Sadly I can already feel in my heart what it will be like when I go down there -and Kevin has corroborated my thoughts -there’s an emptiness. He said it. This little cats death left an empty space.

No more will she come trotting down from the hayloft -her voice preceding her. Nor will she play chase with my horse crop as I flick it along the cement floor of the barn aisle. Nor will she try to bite me if I wanted to stop petting her (she wasn’t perfect:)). It’s just a dusty mess of emptiness. The barn is little more hollow. There’s a vacancy.

This isn’t a post about our little cat that we lost. I’ve posted many pictures of her and shared her over the years. She was a great barn cat. Freedom was hers and sadly that freedom is what also left her with more risks like busy roads. But what this post is about is those sad little empty spaces that beings that we love leave when they die.

We’ve had a number of those empty spaces this last year. They hurt. They make us feel off kilter. While there is -for me -no comparing the losses of my beloved humans to our loved cat- it is a loss. Human loss for me sweeps itself under my feet and pulls me up over myself and then scorches my heart. The loss of beloved pets scorch my heart but don’t render me as dislocated as human loss. But they are still losses that leave empty spaces.

I am so uncomfortable in this emptiness. My first inclination is to fill it up. Because to try to fill it up is easier than facing the sad empty spot head on. With my loss of Mango I’ve sped through the thoughts of “let’s get another cat” to “I’m never going to have another barn cat.” I’ve learned not to listen to any of these thoughts in the wake of loss. I’ve learned that you just have to visit the empty space and eventually in time it won’t be so uncomfortable.

With human loss it is the same but on a way bigger scale. We can’t replace the person we lost with another. Some will try. Some of us will attempt to replace that chasm with anything that can make that space seem so much less empty. But inevitably there isn’t anything to fill those spaces. They never close but they become less sad and uncomfortable.

Kevin said he thinks if we are supposed to get another barn cat it will happen. We will know. And I like that thought. It allows me to face head on the discomforting empty spot Mango left.

I am learning. I don’t always have to try to quell my discomfort. I can learn to just let it be. I can let myself feel what I need to in the time that I need to.

So when I get to the barn in the next few days I think I’ll stand and listen not for what Mango took with her -the little steps and the loud meows- but instead I’ll listen to the silence that she left in her wake and I’ll be thankful that I knew a being like her that left that empty space. Bc those empty spaces we feel really come from loving another – and how scary can something that came from love be?

Happy Birthday Dad


Today would have been my dad’s 82nd birthday. I still can’t believe he isn’t alive. He planned on living a long time. He never would have been ready to go I don’t think. In a way I’m glad his death was fast and he didn’t see it coming. Here then gone. 

I miss my dad and have grieved him plenty over this last tough year. I sometimes felt that I didn’t know how to navigate with him gone. It’s that loss of connection that leaves a hole.  That person I have never not known isn’t existent on this planet anymore. It’s still sometimes throws me for a loop. 

I think I’m to a point where I can sort through some of the boxes I was sent by my brother who went through his effects (aka stuff) and sent me things he thought I might want. That includes many photos. I have purchased albums for them and may sort through them in the fall. Some of his clothing was used to cushion the boxes and that was the hardest thing for me to deal with when I first opened the boxes. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet. 

Grief needs to be felt in order to move on I think. I don’t enjoy it. I lost three people who were very important to me in a short time. It’s been rocky. But I see that the only healthy way is to trudge through it. But we all deal with grief in our own way. We let a little in at a time. Otherwise it’s like a landslide that can knock us over and cover us and keep us from moving at all. 

I think when we lose someone we feel like we are the only ones who feel that loss. It’s because grief is a personal thing. It’s lonely.  We can talk out our feelings some and sit with others feeling the loss as welll but -for me at least -grief is deeply personal. Some days it’s lonely. But with my dad’s loss I’m processing it and I’m moving forward. 

In a tough year I have been blessed as well. I went from needing to be in bed bc of severe chronic pain to being able to move again. That thanks to a surgeon who listened and cared. I’ve been able to buy a beach house for my family. That thanks to my brother who agreed to buy me out of my dads Florida condo (and it is on Marco Island and it did survive Hurricane Irma ). My kids are doing pretty well. All working and one in community college and the other two getting ready to apply. Things are good. 

Amidst grief and loss there is so much sadness but there is joy. Lately I’ve struggled some with my feelings about many things and I’ve gone to see a threpist that I really like. This a safe place where I can open up about conflicted feelings and just vent about the last four years and get it all out. It’s a process. 

I’m sitting on the beach as I wrote this.  Something my dad would have done today I’m sure. I’m looking at the Atlantic and he likely would have been looking at the Gulf of Mexico. But we both shared a huge love of the beach. 

I think about the up and downs of our relationship and the hurts. It was quite a ride. You always want your dad to get you and if doesn’t get you then he supports your dreams. My dad didn’t always get me. I think it was easier with him to relate to guys. He was a guys guy. 

When I began my love of baseball we had lots of conversations about our teams. It was a way to bond more with him. I’m glad for that added bonus of baseball becoming my go to sport. It helped when conversations became awkward or tense. 

I began the process of forgiving my dad years ago. We were always waxing and waning. I always wanted him to just see me for me. And maybe finally he did. 

He became enamored with my photography a couple years ago after I gave him a canvas of a little mountain called Sugarloaf that was near our home in Maryland. We hiked there a few times. I think he even went there alone sometimes. I’m so glad he thought I had talent. No matter your age most of us want our parents to be proud of us. 

There are many things about my dad I don’t know. He struggled with alcohol use and it seemed he was happiest when he was buzzed. Well maybe we all are. But he loved his alcohol too much and he would never admit that it had a hold on him and as he got older I decided maybe it didn’t really matter. Let him just have fun. 

And he did have fun. He had friends and he travelled. I’m so glad for that. He even married his long time love a few years ago. That didn’t end well and it’s not a story I choose to tell now. 

My dad is buried about 45 minutes from my home. In a Catholic cemetery- next to his second wife Jean.   She passed away from Cancer in 1994 at the age of 51. His first wife is my mom. She lives with me now. He definitely wanted to have a partner. I’m not sure he ever mastered being a great husband but I know he loved all of his spouses. I’ve found my dad loved people the best way he knew how. Don’t we all try to love the best way we know how? I think it’s never perfect because we aren’t God. 

Everyone has a story. I know my dads story is deeper than I’ll ever know here on earth. But as conflicted as our relationship could be at times I am so glad he was part of my life.  He was funny and charming. He cared and I know he loved me.

 Since he has been gone I come to see how much alike we really are. My impatience and tendcies toward moodiness and my quick temper are all him.  Though I don’t often show my temper like he could. 

My dad was as big as life itself. A huge precense when he was in a room not only in stature (he was 6’4″) but also in personality.  He was more outgoing than I am and he kept up with friends better than i did. Though I am trying to be better at that.

 Stan Wilson was something. And he was my dad. 

So I’m sitting here in the beach on a beautiful day on Sept 23 remembering my dad on his birthday. I thought I could get through this without tears. But I am not. And that is ok. I cry because I loved. 

Later today I will take some of his ashes and scatter them in the bay just near our beach cottage. I want to release him into the water which he so loved. Later when the gardens are done being put in at our cottage I will scatter some of his ashes there- so he is part of Cool Breeze Cottage. I can just hear him saying “Cool Breeze! Here comes Cool Breeze!”  My high school nickname -he loved nicknames. I hated that name then but now I have three teens and I so get it! 

So happy Birthday Dad. I’d like to think you are with loved ones -your dad, Nana, Jean , keenie. And Ernie , the haleys,and mr Deveraux, mr Vogelsinger and many more. 

Happy Birthday. Your daughter here on  earth misses you so much and will love you always. 

Little signs 

I have been so sad about the flooding in Texas. My brother lives in Austin. He had lots of rain and wind but no flooding. He is safe. His family is safe. But so many others are not. It’s really so sad we can’t put words to it. 

I’ve wanted to write this week but I wanted it so be something that might bring joy or a smile or warmth. So many people are suffering and don’t we suffer just a little when we see our fellow man in such peril? So I have a little story that will maybe bring you some joy -or you might shake your head and laugh. 

Because I got a sign. Not a sign but a SIGN!

The other day I was talking to my mother in law. She’s in heaven -or the great beyond. Whatever you want to call it. To me it’s heaven. We lost her just over a month ago. My heart still hurts and it will for a while -she was my good good friend for almost 20 years. 

Anyway I talk to her. I feel her so near to me. I can’t explain it. But maybe it’s the way she felt her husband near her after he passed away in 2015. She felt him in bed on his side next to her every night.  Oh and he made visits to us too. I’ve written about the time he was sitting watching kevin build our chicken coop. Kevin saw him out of the corner of his eye -twice. Dad would have loved being part of building that coop!  

So she’s gone and the hours long conversations on the phone are gone too. Often I’d talk to her then hang up and dial my mother. Those days are gone. But my mom lives here so the chats can continue in person.  But there is a hole left where mom sweeney once was. I feel her close but it’s not the same. 

So I talk. She’d want that.  The other day while I was talking to her I asked her to send me a sign she was ok. 

I said ” maybe you could put a white rose on my pink rose bush or put flowers where they wouldn’t really grow.”

I went on with my day and didn’t think about it again until a day or two later I saw this. 


This was a pot of weeds on my deck. I hadn’t planted in there in two or three years because my dogs would tear up the pot and eat the flowers. Last spring I pulled weeds out but weeds kept growing. This year a big stalk grew out of it and the boys removed that a month ago or more – and the pot was supposed to go into the big dumpster we have out front now as we clean things out from a basement flood and the junk that accumulates when three generations are living in a house. 

But now there are flowers in the pot! There weren’t any all summer. Just weeds. 

I take this as a sign. 

I’m not sure what others think but all I know is it brought me joy in a week with a lot of sad stuff going on. 

I’ll take it. 

Hope this made you smile or laugh – it’s all good. 

Faces on Paper 

The thing about feelings are they ebb and flow like the tides. One moment I’m ok. Having a good day. Doing fun things. The next I’m just something else. 

I wrote the post below in one sitting. After the purge I felt better went out had a great day with my family. We are down on the shore at our new cottage. I Sat on the calm bay during an eclipse that was anti-climatic here on our longitude and latitude but the serenity in the bay was medicinal as always. 

I’m trying to piece my way through these shift that I am experiencing. During the “normal” times where things feel more I balance I wonder if I am being over sensitive to the feelings I’m having.  But that’s the point my senses feel what they feel when they feel it. Body and soul. We have to honor what we are feeling. It’s so easy to push it away. I want to. But I’m also aware that this is a season of change and I will have to navigate it and face it   .  

So below is what I wrote two days ago and there has been an ebb and a flow again and again.  At some point maybe I will feel on a more even keel again. It been a long four years.

……

I sat crying in the shower -it’s a good place to cry. Hopefully nobody hears you. 

My sense of a numbness and a loneliness began about four weeks ago. It had be creeping up before that but it reared its ugly head in mid-July. A sense I wasn’t living my life, like I am living outside it it sometimes – a sense things have changed. I felt everything  is off kilter. Would it right itself? Will it? 

In the shower I felt the need to write. My words always form in the shower. Then I have to jump out dripping wet and run to type it all out. My words are never as eloquent as they are in the shower. The shower breaks me open sometimes. A cleaning of the body and opening up the soul. 

I think I am having a battle of body and soul. My body is trying to push my feelings down and my soul which usually wins is trying to push them up. The soul is protective and honest at the same time. 

I have experienced huge losses in the last two years. My father-in-law, then my dad -which was very sudden- and four weeks ago my mother-in-law. Add in the four years of dealing with the aftermaths of cancer and two major surgeries for that aftermath in six months and more to come and three teens that keep being -well , teens – my mom moving in – I guess I shouldn’t be surprised I feel the way I do.

I stood in the shower and drew a big heart on the wall and put my hand in it as I cried. Maybe I wanted to feel something familiar as I touched that wet or maybe I wanted it to heat up as a sign from someone who I loved that has crossed into the realm. I just wanted to feel something. And I felt sad so maybe that was ok. 

 I wanted something bc so many things seem shifted. 

Am I depressed? Shell shocked? Is it the meds I have to take?  Or am I just feeling the pangs of so much grief that I am holding in? 

My mother-in- law -Doris Sweeney- whom I called mom was one of my very best friends. She died July 18. She deserves a blog of her own and I will write about her when I can. I’m not ready but  I do miss her terribly. Sometimes I think maybe it’s wrong for me to grieve this loss so much bc this wasn’t my mom this was Kevin’s mom. Doesn’t he deserve to have this huge chasm of loss to himself? I feel like I am stealing his mom or the loss of her somehow. I know that’s not rational. But bc I must feel that way somewhere deep in my brain -my body is like a dam only letting bits of grief sink in. 

I think this and the fact that three people that I considered parents to me – even if two weren’t – have left this world. And crap do I miss them. 

My soul will win and require me to feel what I need to feel. It’s pushing me to deal with it all. I hope that it will get me off this rocking boat and help me to feel like I’m on dry sound land again. 

It’s lonely here. I have felt this loneliness before many years ago before I married Kevin. The alone feeling even when in a room of people. 

Kevin and his family brought so much light and balance  into my life. They have no idea. 

The other day at the memorial lunch I think I hoped it would feel like a reunion of family. That i would feel that warm feeling – like the room gets a bit warmer bc people love eachother and are happy to be together. But I just felt lonely. Nobody did anything wrong. It’s just that each of us was so sad and the part of our soul that touches each other was curled up hugging our own selves – protecting us. Or maybe it was just my soul was curled up and I couldn’t reach out. But everything was off. Sadness prevailed and was visible under the laughter and greeting of friends. Because the humans whose lives we were celebrating should have been there. 

It was a beautiful place and so many words of love were shared.  The gathering of friends was beautiful and I wanted to see my inlaws faces but all I had to look at were the many family photos we shared in collages that we all put together. 

Faces on paper were all that was left. 

I know I looked at the collages but I hardly recall any of the pictures. I even made three of the collages myself. Pinning the photos onto the framed boards one by one. I cried some. But I stealed away the feelings as best I could because other wise I couldn’t have done it. 

Faces on paper. And love and memories. I know this. But I’m not there yet. I know this is what life should be. Parents going before their children. 

Rationally I get all that. But I’m not there yet.  I’m off kilter, I feel this hole, too much has happened. 

I will begin counseling again but right now it seems too exhausting to tell someone everything that has happened.  Maybe I should give the therapist this blog post:) 

I just need a little time to see how this all processes. Writing helps. It does. It’s something that is familiar and balances me. Thank God for it. 

And God. I have written many times about my faith. I would admit  my faith has been tested sometimes in the last year especially. But in the last four I have had so many questions and some have been answered as best as they can be answered and others still flutter waiting for understanding that I might not get. But I think sitting in a church of any sort could help bc I feel a connection to God – but definitely not to a religion. I like bits and pieces of many but dislike bits and pieces too. But sometimes just sitting in a church worshipping and singing can help the soul heal. 

I sat on my horse yesterday. I longed for it. Needed it. For those few moments working with my horse some balance was in my life and that post horse buzz haloed around me for a good while.  But today that sense of unbalance of doing life but it really being part of it is back. 

I’m going out to paint some shutters for our cottage I’m hoping brush to wood will lighten this load o me at least for a while. 

There is a path that I must walk to get to a place of balance even if it is a new familiarity of my life. It’s changed the patriarchy and matriarchy that was once there is now mostly gone. What a gaping hole -albeit wound – it leaves. 

Lonely souls that have to learn to ride the rivers without a beacon ship. 

So much has happened my body and soul are trying to protect me I guess. Trying to keep the dam from breaking. In the meantime I’m floating down the river without a beacon ship  to lead me. Because now I -we- kevin and I and all my sweeney family -we- we are the new beacons  and I’m not ready to lead quite yet. 


Cool Breeze Cottage

My dad called me “Cool Breeze” when I was a teen. I hated it. It implied that I was trying so hard to be cool.  Which in fact I was trying to be cool but he needn’t point it out on a daily basis. 

My dad called a spade a spade(I kind of inherited that trait from him but I think I’m a little softer in my approach but my teens might not agree.) . And he was half joking. It was his way of taking out his frequent frustration with his teen daughter in a comical way. But I was an all about drama teen and I did not like the name at all. 

He would sometimes make it all drawn out. “Here comes Coooool BReeeze , Cooooool Breeze”. It probably didn’t help I carried a large comb in my back pocket and a big attitude on my shoulder.

I tried to ignore it. Sometimes it almost made me laugh when he said it. My dad liked when people were in on the joke but I would not give him the satisfaction. We weren’t buds. And I was trying so hard to be cool. Forget that I was majorly insecure. I would play the part of cool teen. But sometimes my facade cracked.  That’s why the name stung. I was so far from cool. 

But I get it now. And I miss my dad and would love to talk to him again and say “remember when you used to call me Cool Breeze?”  And we’d laugh. 

Over the years we’ve talked about  old Cool Breeze. And I even gave him the satisfaction of a laugh. And the name became a memory –any sting I had from it is long gone. It became a story between a daughter and a dad who sometimes struggled to find things to chat about.  I tear up writing this because I can chat up the best of them -why was it so hard to find things to say to my dad?  And he me?  

I sure can think of lots of things to say now. We weren’t perfect but I miss that man. I tell him that everyday when I wake up. Sometimes I hear him in my head. 

And recently  I was searching for a name for our newly purchased beach cottage. A dream that came true only because my dad isn’t here and my brother bought me out of my dad’s Florida condo thst we both inherited. But our beach cottage is a true dream that became real on April 10, 2017.  It’s still sinking in – and I thought we have to name it something to remind me of my dad. I went through a bunch of ideas. I didn’t like any. Then one day I began pondering name possibilities and Cool Breeze just popped into my head. 

Of course- so I sent Kevin a text “how does Cool Breeze Cottage sound?”

“Perfect”. He wrote back. 

And so I want to introduce you to Cool Breeze Cottage in Delaware. It’s six miles to the beach but a couple minute walk to the Indian River Bay.  Far enough to get away from the crazy summer crowds  of Bethany Beach but close enough to join in when we want. 

We are one of the smallest houses in the neighborhood but when I first saw it online I didn’t know that. And something about the place drew me in. I wasn’t going to look at it because it was out of the price range. But on one sunny day in February we drove out to the shore to look at a few places. I was in pain and traveling for me involved laying in the back of our conversion van with my dog and  popping pain meds and streaming shows on my iPad while Kevin drove. My goal was to get out of the van look over each house on our list and get back in the van and go home. 

We finished our tour of four places and we had two good possibilities and I told Kevin to drive up to the neighborhood where we had looked on one previous trip where we lost out on a house because we weren’t quick enough to make an offer. I loved that area and as we drove I opened realtor.com on my iPad and checked my saved listings and that cottage popped up and had dropped 17k!  I did a double take then told Kevin -we were looking at the cottage at least from the outside. 

We pulled up in front of the gray blue cottage and called our agent right away. She came right over and let us in and the rest is history.  

It wasn’t until we made the next trip over (again me in the back of the van on pain meds) for the inspection that I noticed what the neighborhood was like.  And how close it was to the bay. Kevin and I walked over to the little walkway that led to the bay beach and we just grinned at eachother. It’s a dream come true. We are excited and humbled at the same time.  

I’m determined to enjoy it despite pain issues. In spite of pain issues 🙂 We hope to make some good memories there. 

My dad and  I had talked about maybe buying something together at the Delaware shore not long before he died. He loved that area. We spent many summer vacation weeks there. My love for the area continued and we began to go with our kids when they were pretty young. 

My dad will be missed but somehow I think he’ll be around. And I think he’d be proud. And I’m pretty sure he put that name in my head. 

Cool Breeze . A name I hated, then laughed about and now love. 

Miss ya dad. 

Cool Breeze Cottage

The Little House that Did. 

I’ve long said that your home is where your people are. I’ve moved enough times to know this to be true. That’s not to say I haven’t had some sentimental attachments to a house. I have. I have driven past homes that I’ve lived in and felt the little heart pulls. It’s not really for the bricks and mortar of the place – though I can remember the worn carpet places on the steps of my childhood home – it’s the memories the house represents.

I remember the green counters in Kevin and my’s first home we built together – a cute townhome in Germantown, MD. It was there we brought our first child home from Kazakhstan. It was there I became a mom at age 37. It was there where my life went from being so me oriented to being family oriented. Other people mattered. I began to grow up there.

It’s the memories these brick and mortar places hold. We can take the memories with us in our minds, hearts and photo books but there’s something so sweet when we drive by the old places.

I have some sad memories from some of my old childhood homes too but they represent places that shaped me in some way. So good memories flow with some not great ones. For me I see the swift passage of time when I see old photos of these homes or I drive by them.

For some reason lately that realization of the fast path that life takes has been weighing on me. So it’s not surprising that I have become overwhelmed by sentiment at the sale of my dear inlaws home.

My inlaws have owned that home for nearly 60 years. The little Aspen Hill neighborhood known as Harmony Hills has turned over and and over and over family after family-Kevin’s parents were among the few original owners left in the neighborhood- now one sees many little children running about as young families have moved in. It’s a working class neighborhood now. It’s close enough to the city to be in demand and their house sold quickly. I wasn’t surprised. .

But I was surprised at how sad I am about it.

The sale had to happen. My mother- in- law is in assisted living and we lost my father- in-law a little over a year ago. But their home – not house- their home is one place I have only good memories of. The many dinners with everyone crowded in the living room chatting after a good meal. Lots and lots of laughs. My kids playing with old metal cars or Legos in the basement. The “picnics” in the back yard, Easter egg hunts , gift exchanges and lots of love. It all existed in this house.


It’s hard to believe this little house raised six boys. My husband tells stories of knee football games on the lower level. Sometimes an adult voice would yell down to be quiet. There were sibling arguments too. Much expected with six boys.

That house held many diaper changes and bottles , then much sports gear, many class photos, then graduation pictures, then wedding photos, then grandkids and great grandkids. Those people in those photos have all stepped foot in that home. Thousands of meals were prepared by one of the most kind woman I have ever met. I can see how my mother-in-law might have had the patience to raise six boys. She was a mom to all who came through that home. She’s been a blessing to me and words cannot express how thankful I am for her. She got me through some hard days. She may not even know it. Sometimes  my phone would ring when I would be at my wits end with work or tired from being with my little kids all day and she would be on the line just checking in- and it was just what I needed at that moment. She never intruded, she never judged. She became my friend.

Once I asked if she ever got mad. I’ve never really seen her mad in the 20 years I’ve known her. Kevin -my husband-told me that a few times when he was young his mom got up from the dinner table while they were eating -said nothing – and went quietly into the bedroom and shut the door. I nod my head in understanding. She was overwhelmed with men. I picture the small flask being pulled out from under the mattress! Six boys. One husband. She had to have her moments. No wonder she made so much banana bread.  Baking was her solace. Her banana bread is talked about in many circles. It was that good.

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Six boys raised by good people. Extremely good people. My father-in-law was maybe the fairest person I’ve ever met. He never told anyone what they should do. If you asked him his opinion on something he would tell you what he might do in a given situation but he never pushed anything on anyone else. He believed his sons needed to make their own way and learn from their mistakes. He was also generous. If someone needed a little help he would freely give what he could. This wasn’t a wealthy man but he was rich. He had so much more than money. He had wisdom and love.

Dad was quiet but I’m told that when friends of his sons came over they feared him! Apparently he had a look that made any kid snap to in an instant. Once he told a friend of the boys to move his car out of the driveway and the kid not only moved the car- he left entirely! He was gentle yet firm. I knew only the gentle man and gentleman.

The living room home to many gatherings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each person who has been in that home had a different memory and perspective of life there. What I know is that my life changed there. I became part of big family. Something I always dreamed of. And that family welcomed and accepted and loved me for who I am warts and all. I watched my children who came to us through adoption be loved and accepted without question. I saw them thrive in that love.

We laughed and we cried there.

That little house holds so many memories. And new memories will be built there by a new family.

Family visiting the house before closing.

If it’s walls could talk the stories it would tell. The one thing that that little house did was hold six boys that were raised to be wonderful men. Gentle men and gentlemen. Men that today make sure their almost 92 year old mom gets the best care possible.

Love full circle.

That’s what that little house did.

I will miss that little house.

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