Columns, Grace Notes

That ’70s house

My daughter stopped by my house with her family one afternoon and, as they prepared to leave for home, I noticed she was taking photographs with her cell phone. I asked her what she was doing and she said her friend, who recently moved into a house across the alley from me, had asked her what the inside of my house looked like. My daughter had told her that it looked like the inside of a house frozen in time in the 1970s, and she was taking photos to show her friend what she meant. Welcome to the life of a person of a certain age.

I hadn’t really thought about my home’s interior as reflecting life in the ’70s. So, my daughter pointed out the wood paneling in the family room as an example, the wallpaper (okay, I’ll give her that one), the butcher-block design of the kitchen counter-top (I’ll agree with her there, too), the vinyl floor in the kitchen.

Jean Johansson

On All Saints Day, as we celebrate communion around the altar, we will be in a “thin place,” with barely a separation between this world and the next.

Oh, dear, my house does look like it did in the ’70s. I was telling my neighbor about my daughter’s comment, and she knowingly replied, “Yup, we have what are known as ‘grandma’ houses.”

I am surprisingly undistressed by this piece of news. Through the years, the interior of my home has gone through changes in appearance due to my divorce (when half of my home’s contents left the premises); when my two children moved out; when they moved back in; when they moved out again; and as relatives have died and their belongings have joined my home.

Interior design has taken a back seat to being surrounded by things that once belonged to people who have been a part of my life, and whom I continue to remember and love, in their absence. Truly, the gift of being able to see and use the things that were a part of their daily lives keeps them close, and reminds me from whom I came.

The stories that photographs tell … and the ones they don’t

Last night, for the first time in the six months since my mother died, I started looking through old family photographs that fill boxes that have been stored at my home since my mother’s house was sold. The lives of relatives were condensed into a stream of photos showing them as infants, then school-age children, brides and grooms, young parents, old men and women. We have so much in common, mixed in with what makes us unique. And it goes so fast, this life we have, even though at times the busy-ness with which we occupy ourselves makes it feel like things will never change.

As I write this, All Saints Day looms on the church calendar. Worship that day is always bittersweet, but never more so than it will be this year. For the first time, my mother will be among the departed saints whom I remember and give thanks for. That day, as we celebrate communion around the altar, we will be in a “thin place,” with barely a separation between this world and the next, and we will, as always, be communing with the saints.

The worship service will be poignant, heavy with emotion. There will be candles of remembrance, and music that evokes the mystery of death and everlasting life. I will think of all the people, no longer walking this earth, who continue to be loved and missed by family and friends. And those whom we will someday, by the grace of God, see again.

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