My Road Goes Ever On
Wisdom Between Them
My Family Legacy involves not only the inherited characteristics of my parents but their habits and life views. What will I pass on to my kids?
My dad once said, in effect, that a house is like a child that never grows up. Though it does manage to grow old. How true!
When I “discovered” my house on a March 1st morning some 20+ years ago, I knew that it was perfect for us. Don’t ask me how I knew. I just knew. Deceptively large inside, far larger than one would guess by looking at it from the outside, and surrounded by trees, which were surrounded by farm fields, it symbolized all the pleasant contradictions of life.
My husband had the joyful, though challenging duty of making it fit for our ever-growing family. After his death, I just had to keep it from tumbling around my ears.
Over the years, I have learned a few secrets. Houses, like their owners, have their own trials and tribulations. Their weak spots. So the pipes run uphill when they are supposed to run down? And the landscape washes every rain shower into our back door?
So, like any decent human being with a certifiable conscience and good sense, I decided to fix things. Sure, my brain told me. Go ahead. Try. See how it works.
Apparently moving the new well pipes to right behind the electrical box was not an act of genius forethought. Snakes liked the fresh holes though. Someone was happy anyway. And plastic is…well…plastic. It snaps. A lot. Crumbles even. And guess what? New flooring hates to get wet.
I sometimes wonder if I have made as many mistakes with my kids as with the house. Since my children are reasonably well-adjusted and manage to hold jobs and move forward in their educational pursuits, I’m not terribly anxious about them. Just wondering why the house is so much harder to please.
Could it be that my lack of carpentry, electrical, plumbing, and basic know-how skills has set me up for failure?
No, I blame my mom. Really it’s her fault. You see, under a compulsive, though, I must admit, a very generous assertion that she would never have a baby born on April 1st, my appointed due date, she decided that she would do everything within her power to have me born early. Using every trick in the book, which happened to include jogging around the block to the concern of her neighbors, lighting votive candles at church, and praying to every saint she could think of under the haze of the last trimester of pregnancy, she achieved her goal and gave birth to her sixth child two days early.
And thus, I have lived all my whole life under the delusion that to be on time is to actually be late. I hurry through everything in dread fear of being on time. Heaven forbid!
My children, though most of them arrived early, do not seem to carry this heavy load of urgency. I constantly have to pluck my jaw off the floor when they turn assignments in on time. Not late. Not early. But on time.
So naturally, when it comes to putting a new unassembled shelf together, I skip those dreary time-consuming instructions and go for it—so as to get the bloody thing done as fast as possible. Of course! That is what time hoarders do. We hurry! Ignore the fact that I have unexplained pieces left over after each assembly project. I just tuck them in the drawer as another of life’s quaint mysteries.
There is really no mystery to the fact that I lay down new flooring before I fix the threshold, which seeps water every time it rains. And it’s no wonder that the ensuing ripples perplex me. I did everything fast. It should have worked. There is no higher object in life than to get things done fast and efficiently.
Actually, both my mom and my dad had a lot of wisdom between them. If only they saw each other then as I see them now. Mom’s spirit of generosity bespoke a love for her unborn child that any mother might envy. My dad’s clear-eyed appraisal bespoke a mind that accepted a homeowner’s reality without illusion.
Perhaps it’s not the house that needs to grow up…but its owner.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 17 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
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