A House Where She Belongs

Daddy passed away first and Mama followed him just one month later. I’ve written about it before, and I’m sure I’ll write about it again. But today, I write about something they left behind when they passed: the “big yellow house,” where they lived together 60 years.

They’d been married just a few years, when they bought the house and the property – 80 acres – some farmland, some woodland. In this house and on this property, they raised their family and created a heritage for us that lasted not only through their lifetimes but one that continues today in us, their children and grandchildren.

They planted thousands of pine trees in bare, unused pastures. Along the creek bordering the south line of the property, Daddy created a beautiful picnic area, where he and Mom hosted family reunions and Sunday School picnics. Church softball teams played in one of the two ball fields. Twenty foot posts connected by tightly woven wire farmyard fence stood tall and firm behind home base, creating the back stop.

Mom on Gypsy
Mom on Gypsy

Our main barn was huge with two large haylofts, cow stanchions, horse stalls, grain bins, and equipment rooms. We kids swung on a rope as thick as a softball bat – from the north to the south loft – and back and forth through the east and west barn doorways. Other farm buildings completed this pastoral setting: a smaller barn, chicken coops, a corn crib, a granary, and a shed, housing an electric pump, which supplied fresh water to our horses: Jack, Gypsy, and Smokie,  and to my brother’s dairy cow, Daisy. It was as Norman Rockwell as any Midwestern farm could be, and it belonged to Margie and Wayne, my parents.

The heart of this ideal ambience was the house – a big yellow house – and although we all loved it, my mother seemed to love it the most. Next to her Lord, her husband, and her family, the house was her everything! She needed nothing else to be content than to be in her home – the big yellow house. And it fully satisfied her from the fall of 1952, when they moved in, until her last day, some 60 years later.

waligora favicon2During those first years, few improvements were made to the house, but it was personally and tastefully decorated on a very limited budget: simple, sylvan printed curtains attached with sewn on rings; homemade chair cushions, stuffed with worn towels and covered with a pastoral print; and fresh flowers from the garden in the summer, pussy willow in March, and evergreens in the winter.

We “lived” in every room of the house. One of the big upstairs bedrooms belonged to me! But in the cold winter months, Mom and Dad set up my brother’s and my twin beds in the dining room on the cozy main floor, as the upstairs was hard to heat. Heat rose through one large, square, cast iron register in the living room from the enormous wood furnace in the basement below. Insulation and storm windows came years later.

During my childhood diseases, my mother tucked me into a “bed” made up on big wine-colored frieze chair and matching ottoman – close to her opened bedroom door.

She was very spontaneous, and she improvised as needed – or at whim!

One day, I came home and found that she had cut the top part of the footboard off her bed. I didn’t even know she could use a chainsaw!

She cooked on electric stoves but yearned for a cookstove to be put in the back “woodshed,” an unheated, unfinished part of the house. A “summer kitchen,” she would call it. She also would have loved an open stairway. Mama never got either the summer kitchen or the open stairway, but it didn’t appear to matter much to her. She loved her house unconditionally and was most content there.

As  the years passed and Mom worked more outside her home, adding to Daddy’s income, physical improvements were made to the house: storm windows, insulation, aqua-colored carpet from Sears & Roebuck, a remodeled kitchen with maple cabinets, and a new large window, overlooking the huge garden, filled with poppies and strawberries, vegetables and flowers, and on to the fields below – all from the dining room table.

But time passed, and as the house aged,

so did Mom.

Near the end of her days in the big yellow house, I often found my mom sitting at the dining room table, looking out the window – across the garden, and on to the old ball fields, picnic area, and the creek. I often heard her speak as she had throughout the years before: of love for her “big yellow house” and of the contentment she found within it.waligora-logo2Before Mom was buried in the country cemetery across the road, we placed her in a beautiful white hearse and covered her with flowers – flowers like those found in her garden and yards. And on that cold April day, she journeyed the circular drive one last time – near the spirea bush, beside the old maple tree that had slowly died along with her, alongside the kitchen door she had entered so many times, and past the lilac bushes, just beginning to leaf. I imagined hearing her say “goodbye” to that “big yellow house” as she stepped into a perfect one the Lord had prepared for her.

As much as she loved the big old yellow house, I don’t think she misses it now because, you see, I’m sure God gave her a new one in heaven. It has the open stairway she always wanted — and a summer kitchen with a green and cream-colored cook stove. Daddy was waiting for her, sitting at the dining room table, forever to share that big yellow house with her!

Recently, I’ve been sorting through Mom’s “pieces” – her writing, her notes, and her quips – and I came upon a little piece she had clipped out of a magazine one day, long ago. I’ve researched it. The words seem to be anonymous, yet they are my mother’s words:

“There’s a house whose rooms I know by heart

where I tended the garden and read my books.

Where dreams were dreamt and memories made.

Where children grew up and I grew old.

There’s a house where life was lived.

A house where I belong.”

IMG_2767

Mom had cut the page, probably from a magazine, personalized the piece by placing a photo of her “yellow house” over the house pictured in the article, and covered it with  a plastic protector.

I love the yellow house. I know its rooms by heart. I dreamed in the house and read my books there. But my children didn’t grow up there, nor did I grow old there.

 Someone, however, will again raise her children in that house, and that woman will grow old there. She will never “see” it, but a blessing of heritage will permeate its walls, the presence of the Holy Spirit will indwell its rooms and will touch the woman’s soul. Yes, someone will again live out her life there. And for her, it will be a house where she belongs.

Yellow House in the FallRead more in When Life Roars, Jesus Whispers

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The Fishing Pole

When I was a little girl, Reverend Robert Lindner held summer Vacation Bible School at our little country church around the corner from our big yellow house. The week before the event, he drove the dusty roads with a megaphone speaker atop his car, announcing the upcoming Bible School, inviting the children as they played in their yards, and creating excitement amongst our farm community!

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Treasures from the Woodshed

Daddy and Mama bought the big yellow house when I was 13 months old. Surrounded by red barns, white board fences, chicken coops, and corn cribs, the house sat on 80 acres of fields, pastures, and woods, bordering a creek. They paid $10,000 for it. Grandpa Nutt said they’d never live to see it paid! But my Grandpa was wrong.

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Letters from War

Marion L. Nutt

May 18, 1920 – April 28, 1943

I never knew my Uncle Marion, yet my throat tightens, and tears roll down my face whenever I look at pictures of him, read his letters from war, or place a flower on his grave.

Perhaps it is because he reminds me of my father. They shared such a resemblance. Or perhaps it is because sometimes I try to place myself in my Grandma’s shoes – having five sons in the war at the same time

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The Library in My Woodland

My parents bought their 80-acre Butler Township Farm in 1952 from Elizabeth Ramsdell. Her husband, Ray Ramsdell had passed the year before, and Elizabeth did not want to keep up the farm herself. After selling the farm on land contract to my parents, she moved to a huge home on Washington Street with her sister, another widow or perhaps an unmarried woman. I simply remember them as “elderly” and looking back, I find they were younger than I am now!
 
I remember going with my mother every month to make the farm payment to Mrs. Ramsdell. The Washington Street house was a typical late 19th century, Victorian home. While Mother had tea with the ladies in the parlor, I was allowed to close the 10 foot pocket doors on two sides of the grand foyer and let my imagination run wild on each step of the massive open stairway and landings to the huge, probably unused, upstairs. Closed doorways throughout the wide hallways held stories I could only imagine, hopefully saved for another day. For about an hour a month, I visited airplanes and railroad cars, hospitals and hotels, and mansions and palaces. 

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When you pray . . .

I was pleased that Kaylee was sound asleep. She had seen me cry enough this last year, each time, hugging me, “Are you missing Grandpa and Grandma Nutt?” she would ask.

“Yes, honey,” I’d answer, thankful to receive and return the hug, but forcing the smile. Her tenderness brought me back. Her smile always gave me focus. And strength.

But now, as I left her sleeping, I could feel the tears welling up. These tears –  tears from missing someone so desperately, knowing you’ll never see her again in your life time – don’t well up in the eyes. They build in a pressure beginning at both sides of the top of your neck, spreading behind your ears, instantly to the sides of the bridge of your nose, then flooding your eyes and overflowing down your face.

“Nana, will you sing to me?” Kaylee had asked, just a few minutes earlier.

It had become our nightly ritual. Kneeling beside her bed, rubbing her back or stroking her cheek, singing her to sleep. My repertoire usually consisted of “Go Tell Aunt Tabby,” “Bye-Baby Bunting,” and my made up song for Kaylee:

Sweet dreams, my Kaylee Joy; 

Sweet dreams to you.

Dream about butterflies,

Dream about baby dolls,

Dream about teddy bears too.

And each night, after several made up verses, my soft singing turned to quiet humming; and eventually diminished, as I left the room and walked down the hall. She was contented and asleep.

But this night, as I knelt by her bed and had sung several verses of Kaylee’s made up song, I quietly hummed two notes – the fifth and the third notes of a  chord – and those two tones immediately took me back  in  time.  . .1951 AD Newborn Kathy copy

. . .  to my mother’s arms.

She was holding me. I felt the warmth of her arms. I looked into her face. I could see my chubby little arm reaching up to her soft cheek. She was humming the song to me – the same two tones. I was tiny – perhaps a few months – perhaps a year. In all my memories, I’ve never felt so small. I remembered being a baby! It was so peaceful but oh so brief! Nearly as soon as the memory had come, it was gone! I was back in the present! Back in reality!

As I left Kaylee’s room that night, the other tones, the melody of the song, came to mind, and the words came a bit later. This time, I wasn’t taken back in time but I sat in the dimly lit living room, closed my eyes, and allowed myself to picture and hear my mother singing – the  little chorus I hadn’t heard in years:
Music Notes

When you pray, will you pray for me
For I need His love and His care
When you pray, will you pray for me
   Will you whisper my name in your prayer.

At the close of the day, when I kneel to pray
I will remember you
You need help every day, this is why I pray
And I will remember you.

When I pray, I will pray for you
For you need His love and His care
When I pray, I will pray for you
I will whisper your name in my prayer.

1954 B Christmas Margie and Kathy (6) copyTonight, Mama, when I pray, I will whisper your name in my prayer:

Thank you, Jesus, for my Mama, who held me and sang to me and prayed for me. And thank you, Jesus, for the wonderful memory .

Click here to listen to the Gaithers sing “When You Pray.” It’s not as sweet as my Mama’s voice, but you’ll get the idea! 🙂

Their Wedding Rings

Their wedding rings remain a symbol and a promise of their commitment to each other and of the fidelity they exhibited for 66 years.

I had observed those rings on their fingers, year after year. The fingers, once young and taut, became aged and thin, as did the gold bands around them. Both wedding bands and the diamond engagement ring are worn through from years of hard work, in the factory, the dirt, the water.  From years of play and of cooking and baking and of praying together. And why wouldn’t they be worn? Sixty-six years as symbols and promises  of commitment and fidelity.

Mom's bandsDaddy and Mama have been gone now for some years. And I miss them. So, on occasion, I hold those rings in the palm of my hand and visualize their aged hands, wishing I could hold those beautiful old hands in mine once again.  I occasionally slide the rings on my fingers, especially when I want to feel their presence. Having the rings near reminds me of how they prayed for me and my family.

They passed one spring, just one month apart. Early that fall, I slid the rings on my omega necklace chain, and wore them throughout a most difficult day, the day of our daughter, Amber’s, sentencing. The rings hung close to my heart, touching my skin. I sensed their presence with me in that courtroom, reminding me that their God was my God. – always faithful. On that taxing day, the rings, once a symbol and a promise in the marriage, became their symbol and promise of commitment and fidelity to us, the family resulting from the marriage. Our family continued to be one – in the Lord.

On the omegaOne morning, shortly thereafter, I placed the rings, along with my birthstone, on the necklace. and headed out the door for Mott’s Children’s Hospital at U of M in Ann Arbor, where our baby grandson, Luke, was to undergo open-heart surgery. Throughout the long day and the trying days ahead, I often touched the rings, fidgeting with them, remembering Daddy and Mama’s  faithful prayers for me and my family – prayers that are still held in a bowl, each prayer like incense going up before the Lord God (1). At times, I raised my hand to my breast and clutched the rings ever so snugly within my grasp for quite some time, picturing the Father holding my little Luke in His hand, never letting him go. As I did so, I prayed. And prayed. And prayed.

On the trying days of Baby Luke’s surgery and recovery, the rings symbolized even more. Suddenly, they were reminders of Daddy and Mama’s commitment and fidelity to the Lord Jesus, which is the heritage they have passed on to us, their children, and to our children, and to our children’s children.

That heritage, in turn, reveals the greatest promise of commitment and fidelity – that of the Lord Jesus to me, and to my children, and to their children . . . “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” He says (*2). And I have found that promise to be true.

Just days later, I again wore the rings on the necklace to await and then to celebrate the birth of our grandson, Jack, the newest life born into our family. Memories flooded my mind of Baby Jack’s Daddy, our firstborn, Matt. Matt was Daddy and Mom’s first grandson, Matt. On that day years ago, the rings were on their own fingers – now I wore them near my heart. The rings connected us from the past to the present and in some way, to the eternal future we will all have together. And as we all praised and thanked God for this new gift of life in our family, I wrapped my fingers around those rings and whispered, “Thank you, Daddy and Mama, for your example of commitment and fidelity – to each other – to us, your family – and to the Lord Jesus.”

(1) Revelation 5:8

(2) Hebrews 13:5b

Treasures from the woodshed.

Daddy and Mama bought the big yellow house when I was 13 months old. Surrounded by red barns, white board fences, chicken coops, and corn cribs, the house sat on 80 acres of fields, pastures, and woods, bordering a creek. They paid $10,000 for it. Grandpa Nutt said they’d never live to see it paid! But he was wrong.

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The Old Soap Dish

It doesn’t look like much. And to most, it probably isn’t much. Just a soap dish, from K-Mart, one might assume. Probably purchased in the 50’s. Pink plastic with removable drainer. The gold trim of its crown nearly worn from years of scouring with Comet Cleanser. At first glance, one might easily overlook the esteemed position it held through the years.

The soap dish held court at various locations in the old Victorian home—the big yellow house—as it sustained its royal status throughout the years the family resided within.

 
Court was first held upstairs beside the claw foot bathtub. The woman scooped the white Ivory bar from the dish, scrubbing the children’s skinned knees and alfalfa-entangled hair before wrapping each child in blanket-sized towels and carrying them  downstairs, one by one, to the warmth of the oversized heat register to dry and dress in their flannel pajamas.
 
At other times, court was held at the guest sink in the small bathroom, not original to the yellow house but added years later in the empty space under the stairway. The woman placed a new Dove bar (her favorite) in the clean soap dish, and the beautiful, elongated white bar, embossed with the famous dove lasted quite some time in that location.
 
The years passed; the children grew and left the big yellow house; and the soap dish with the Dove bar was removed from its guest sink location, being replaced by liquid soap in a sterile, aloof, pump dispenser.

From that time on, court for the stately container was held in the back room of the old house, aside the jumbo cast iron sink and the old pitcher pump. A large, green coarse bar of LAVA soap now filled the dish, and the man used the LAVA bar several times a day, faithfully scrubbing his aging hands, ridding them of the evidences of hours of labor on his land. The soap dish was often covered with the dirty, dried bubbles of the resultant purification process, thus the woman used more Comet Cleanser, more often to clean the aging pink plastic dish.
More years  passed until the old man and the old woman  sadly left the big yellow house. The old pink, plastic, soap dish rested alone and nearly empty, filled with but a sliver of a coarse bar of soap and covered with dried pumice. The dish was nothing but a simple, quiet remembrance of the old man, the old woman, and the family who had once inhabited the royal surroundings.
 
The little girl who had years before overlooked the pink, plastic soap dish and to whom the soap dish had once seemed silly and unimportant, had grown up, and one day, while browsing the back room of the empty house she had once occupied, her eyes fell upon the seemingly useless and meaningless container. Now she perceived it unlike she had in the past, scrutinizing every detail of its surface, regarding it in a different light and from a different perspective. Suddenly she recognized its royal significance. She gently carried it from the yellow house to her own home where she carefully cleaned it and placed it at a prominent position, once again entitling the soap dish to resume its noble post and to once again hold court . Now, in the time of fragranced, foaming, liquid soap selections, the soap dish holds a plain, white bar of Kirk’s Castile and is regularly but delicately cleaned in an effort to maintain its royal stature.
The little girl, now grown, understands that the old pink plastic soap dish doesn’t look like much to the visitor or to the passerby.  And to most, it probably isn’t much. But to the little girl, it’s another sweet reminder of her stately past and a  true confirmation of her royal heritage.
 
 
 

The Poppies of the Field

Passersby stopped their cars. Some actually drove in the big circle driveway, walked up the steps to the porch, and knocked on the kitchen door.

“May we look at your flower garden?” they asked.

Daddy’s and Mama’s garden was massive, stretching  between the mown lawn and the corn field, its woven artistry of greens and reds and yellows visible from every south window of the old yellow house. It abounded with fruits and vegetables – strawberries in June, green beans in July, sweet corn in August, and pumpkins in September. But at a distinct time of the hot Michigan summer, the garden was amass with papery-petalled blooms: beautiful red poppies.

Daddy’s and Mama’s lives paralleled that garden. Like their garden, their lives were brimming with ever-bearing vibrancy – of honor and service to God!

Those seasons were  times of sunshine and rain. Of planting and reaping. Although well-remembered, they were summer of times long passed. 

Today, nothing remains of the beautiful flower garden or of the vivid red poppies. For a few years, a little stem, here and there, popped up, but now, withered stubble covers the ground where the poppies once bloomed. And like the garden, nothing remains here on earth of the vibrant lives of Daddy and Mama.

“All men [and women] are like grass, and all their glory is like the [poppies] of the field; the grass withers and the [poppies] fall, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:6,8)

Yes, His word stands forever. It is powerful. It is mighty. It is beautiful. It does not die. It withstands every season, every storm, every fire, and every trial. It is permeated with vibrancy – the vibrancy of life.

So again today, I will open the Word and let it fill me with its unending message.  I desire the Word to reflect in my life such vividness that passersby stop and stare, glimpsing God’s glory in all of its beauty. 

They asked Daddy and Mama, “May we look at your flower garden?”

I hope they ask of me, “Please tell me about your Jesus I so vividly see.”

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