Laura is a mother of two, a teacher, writer and an artist. She also identifies with dreamer, visionary, advocate and an organizer.
Almost seventeen years ago, I began a new life with my children. We moved into a house that offered promise of new beginnings. Each year I transformed areas of the house until it became our home. It became more than a structure that contained us. The house became a home that facilitated nurturing, family, contained our sorrows as well as our joys and was synonymous with all of our growth and my achievement as a single mother who was able to provide for her family.
Now that my children are adults, it is time for another adventure. One that will define the next seventeen years (or more) for me. It excites me to think of another family experiencing growth and joy in our home. It is still a bit heart-breaking for me to imagine my absence from the future history of this framework that is so familiar and so much a part of my identity.
Walkway of Memories
The small, narrow path hidden by carefully placed bushes leads to my front door. The cement stairs have some structural flaws that occurred over time. A small hole is found to the left and chipmunks have been known to build their nests inside so as to avert the neighbor cat's attention elsewhere.
In the summer, the bushes become lush with greenery and they offer enough protection from the road to allow a sense of anonymity from those that pass by my abode. In the fall, the bushes depict their given name, Burning Bush as they flare up in a fiery red color, providing a show that amazes spectators. They are complemented by the nearby Japanese Maple that competes with them with its own blazing, red color.
The simple walkway leading to my front door takes me through a variety of stimulating experiences as my senses explode with joy. The chirping of multiple birds sing praise from the trees. Butterflies skim the budding perennials and collect sweet nectar. Bees propagate plant growth and buzz around the yard. Visually, the colors and blending of nature's palette is soothing and calming. The trek up to my door is welcoming and reminds me that I am home.
I reminisce about the repeated times that my two children ran through this cement trail, eager to get inside and play with their toys. Often, groups of their peers would join them for sleepovers and special occasions and the sidewalk, while bursting with bodies, could always accommodate whoever visited. It was as if the house was embracing everyone that entered.
The little walkway also lead us to the driveway which was at times an artist's canvas. Chalk drawings, water balloon markings and dirt prints spruced up the drab concrete. The whirring of wheels from bicycles, scooters and roller skates pounded the pavement. Skinned knees and salty tears stained the area. Trips in the car as we backed out of the garage and drove into the street, eager to reach our destination. Yard sales where old and gently used items adorned the front of the garage. Graduation parties where friends and family entered our living space to celebrate achievements.
That little walkway invited all those that entered and bid a cheery goodbye when they left. It truly is a path of memories.
The Gathering Space
Every home has a gathering space. Mine had many. If I were to reflect upon the one area in my house that provided the most joy, I would have to choose the dining room. My kitchen is not large enough to house an eating area and accommodate the dog's eating dishes and the trash bin. Therefore, our meals were always eaten in the formal, dining room, located in the front of the home.
This room is bursting with memories and I feel as if the walls are sealed not with a couple coats of paint, rather layers of love and laughter. My son and daughter both celebrated 16 birthdays around this table. Chairs were wedged next to each other to allow shared seating for their friend. Candles were blown out as joyous melodies, often sung off tune permeated through the air. My children and their besties would sit around the wooden, oval table for hours discussing life, social media, love and their dreams. After one of the hundreds of sleepovers that occurred in our home, they would awaken and gather once again around the table as I worked in the adjacent room cooking up breakfast as competently as any short order cook. Eggs, pancakes, sausage and camaraderie were consumed with delight and I personally felt most satisfied with the opportunity to serve my loved ones and their friends; most of whom I thought of as my own.
The dining space was also the gathering place for family get togethers with my siblings and their children. Tables were brought in and pushed to the exterior walls to allow for heaping platters of delicious food to be shared.
During the holiday season, I would host craft shows that would invite the public into my house. The dining room displayed baked goods, wreaths and greenery on the walls, homemade candies, cards, soups, jewelry and more as shoppers eagerly sampled and purchased the goods for sale. The doorways were decorated with hanging boughs of greenery and the large china cabinet was emptied to display the wares for viewing.
Each evening, my children and I would gather around the oak table and eat dinner. This was a time for discussion, sometimes debate and affirmation of our enjoyment of being together. We played board games and card games and the laughter was as enriching as the happiness displayed by the winner of each activity.
This gathering space promoted family and cohesiveness. It is the heart of my home.
The Enchanted Garden
One of the pleasurable secrets about my home has always been my back yard. It is truly a hidden delight that is unknown to those that have never been welcomed inside.
Each spring, my excitement cannot be contained as I anticipate the overabundance of blooming trees and bushes that landscape the terrain. To the west of the house is a 50 foot crab-apple tree that offers large bunches of pink and scarlet flowers and the scent wafts through the windows into my living room. Across from this beautiful tree are Althea bushes that will produce their beautiful, pink and purple flowers closer to fall. There is also a tall, branchy, snowball bush that creates round, palm sized blooms that exhilarate the senses. I have two other snowball bushes on my property. One in the backyard and one on the east side of the garage. The large flower masses and delicious scent that is produced by each of these shrubs is intoxicating to the senses. While looking outside of my living room window, I take in the beauty of the southern location of my yard. Delicate, paper-like blooms adorn the Japanese Dogwood tree and a majestic Magnolia offers her pale pink and white flowers for my enjoyment.
I have planted and cultivated my gardens for years and the blend of hosta, sedum, pine trees, lilies, poppies and peonies provide an optical arrangement that brings my heart joy. My backyard space offers small glimpses to the neighbors around me but provides enough privacy to ensure quiet seclusion when I want to connect with nature.
At one time, the grassy area presented a large trampoline. My son and daughter would access this contraption daily with their friends. The melody of children's voices and their obvious enjoyment was fulfilling to me as a parent. A small, blow up pool allowed the sweaty, active children an opportunity to cool down and refresh themselves as well as wash off the sticky residue that covered their bodies resulting from the Popsicles they consumed.
In the evening, after I put my children to bed, I would enter the trampoline and lay flat on its surface to gaze up at the stars and catch sight of an occasional bat as it flew by devouring airborne insects.
A small fire pit stands on the brick, paved patio leading into the gardens and memories of roasting marshmallows and hot dogs float in the waves of heat that rise from the fire each time it is used.
I will so miss my enchanted garden when I move. It has been a haven not only for wildlife, foliage and pollen carriers, it has been an area that promoted play, laughter, growth and joy.
Neighbors Add to One's Safe Space
Growing up I lived in a neighborhood full of people. We lived on a block that contained around 12 houses and on the end of the street was a corner store run by a family that also fixed cars and sold tires. The houses across the street were situated on a block as well. No matter the direction you went, you would find similar set ups after crossing the street.
When I moved out of my parents' house, I lived in apartments, rental houses and during the time I was married, I lived in a large home that we had built on a parcel of ten acres. I had neighbors in each of my living spaces which provided comfort and visibility of a comrade if one was needed.
My current home is blessed to be in a community of people where support is part of daily terminology and it isn't uncommon to hear a knock on one's door and when opening it, see a small child holding a measuring cup and inquiring as to whether or not they can "borrow" a cup of sugar. I love the presentation my neighborhood gives of an Andy Griffith Mayberry facade and I hope that wherever my new adventure plants me, I will find a similar situation.
During the winter the snow and cold weather keeps us inside. We may emerge to shovel our sidewalk and many advance on to their neighbors to clear off their walkways as well, but over the fence conversations fall into a hibernation, just as nature does until the sun moves closer to the Earth and the spring gives promise to the awakening of life again.
One of the first plants to rise from the ground and blossom is my bleeding heart plant. I have two in my yard. One is in the far back southern area, close to the fence that separates two of my neighbors from my property. The other plant is located in the southeastern side of my garden and it rests near the fence that encloses my other neighbor's yard from mine.
The bleeding heart plants beckon neighboring as their presence brings me outside and I happily find my friends nearby. Nothing is as sweet as over the fence conversations. Discussions vary in length but they are always interesting, uplifting and induce a feeling of companionship. I'll have to be sure to plant some bleeding hearts once I settle in the near future so that the cultivation of new friendships will begin to grow as well.
A Doorway Can Be a Portal to Your Soul
My home has many doors. Each room has a personality of its own. Every doorway that I walk through as I pack up belongings for my move, allows me to transport back and recollect my life's journey.
My front door leads you to a vestibule. If you turn left, you enter the dining room. If your turn right, you enter the living room that is enclosed with large, double-hung windows that allow light and the visions of flowering trees and jade colored greenery an opportunity to catch your eye.
Many gatherings occurred in this room. I remember my mother sitting on my couch as my snippy, little Yorkie cast aside his disdain for visitors and cuddled close to her side. Her laughter is a sound that I miss terribly yet I still hear it when the house is silent. My children would sit on the chaise lounge as their friends sat around on the floor waiting for them to open birthday gifts. Then, the room, adorned with streamers and balloons would become a game area with pin the tale on the donkey posters on the wall and sticky wall figures being thrown against the plaster for racing. Tables were set up for art projects and collecting prizes. The living room would welcome friends and family for celebrations. The built in shelving would contain snacks and sweet candies. Chairs filled the space and sounds of amusement filled the air.
Each year, the Christmas tree would be erected in front of the back window. Bright lights from the tree and those from the mantle hovering above the fireplace would warm the space. Stockings filled with treasures and presents placed under the tree brought forth a delightful anticipation of the upcoming morning when children and animals would excitedly rip off paper from their parcels. The smiles and "thank yous" were as wonderful as watching the dogs chew their bones, the cats become intoxicated with catnip toys and my children smearing chocolate Santa remnants across their face.
The doorway that lead to the kitchen was used frequently. Accessing the refrigerator, stove and cupboards so that meals and delicacies could be prepared. The warmth of the oven and the lingering smells of baked goods always felt like a hug.
The door leading to the basement brought you to the family room. The room where the television was permitted and a mass of bodies would occupy the carpeted floor with video game remotes in their hands. I would bring trays of goodies to my kids and their pals and would chuckle at the sight of children dressed in costume after rummaging through the dress up cupboard. While most parents cringe at the thought of their charges making noise, I relished it. I always made sure that toy instruments were readily available so that musical processions with drums, harmonicas, cymbals and maracas could occur during play time. The book shelf housed a variety of books geared toward budding readers and the books were well loved. A variety of scientific and unique playthings were packed in every nook and cranny and exploration of my children and their playmates was always encouraged. The toy room that held all of these items was adjacent to the family room. As my children grew out of their toys, I converted the room into a crafting center and stored my art supplies in the storage areas that once held the imagination makers that were once so dear to my children. What lovely memories are held within these rooms tucked into the finished basement. I can often hear the echoes of each little voice that frequented the area.
The doorway that leads into each bedroom opens up a portal that allows a glimpse into the portrayal of each of us. My son's room is cluttered with items pertaining to technology. A self proclaimed computer geek at a young age, he has immersed himself into the field professionally and I can't even name the pieces of equipment he has gathered over the years. My daughter's room is strewn with art supplies as she is a composer of creativity. She prefers a messy space and has created beautiful masterpieces in that room. When you enter through my bedroom door, you will find pictures of my children on the walls and on my dresser. There are dog beds gracing the floor and my enormous, king bed takes up most of the space. That bed was the resting place for both of my babies until they found the courage to sleep alone in their own room. It was their shelter when they were afraid of the jolting lightning and the booming thunder. My bed was their nurse when they were sick in the night. My room is quite orderly with perhaps some clothing that needs to be relocated to a drawer or a hanger and it represents the alignment one looks for in a mother.
The back door leads into my garden oasis where one can forget about their worries and connect with the blue sky and the green grass. The lilac bushes emit a stimulating scent that calms and soothes.
Each doorway leads to another memory in my home. Lately, as I prepare to leave this beloved structure, I stop, take a quick breath and close my eyes before opening a door. I want to remember the sweetness of the past and I am thankful that I have been privy to so many opportunities for creating family memories.