I watched rain douse the window and listened to the rumble of thunder as I looked outside. I remembered that I once wished for a window above the sink. Sometimes I miss the gifts right in front of me. I moved more quickly than usual as I washed the dishes. It was Sunday; we were going to church for the first time in months.
I held the cups and plates with happy little scenes of sunflowers, gardens and home. I thought: I’m glad I didn’t give these dishes away like I’d planned. Also, I was happy to have kept the white teapot with HOME stamped on it.
Earlier that morning Eliza Jo, our four-year-old granddaughter, looked carefully at the cheerful pictures and told their stories. The man in blue overalls was Pop, and another scene depicted Eliza and me in our garden. She chose her favorite pieces and asked me which ones I liked best. I chose the cup and plate with the tall yellow house. At that moment, those inexpensive dishes and time with Eliza and her stories, were the most important things in the world.
We’d just enjoyed our third sleep-over and Eliza had asked for another tea party like we’d had months before. For the sake of time, we decided on a breakfast theme. Pop was invited along with the stuffed animals. I brought the dishes out of the cabinet and found an old picnic tablecloth, and Eliza set the table. She assigned places for the three of us. Our menu: oatmeal with lots of cinnamon and chopped apples, tiny bits of white chocolate Christmas candy, small pieces of homemade chocolate chip cookies and slices of mango. We use what we have. In the teapot, fruity herbal tea brewed. I’d show Eliza how to properly pour the tea. I lit a candle, dimmed the lights, and flipped the switch for the bright-colored Christmas lights. Last Christmas we added them to a space in the tray ceiling over the table, just for the grandkids. Later, I went against all previous instincts and kept them in place just for fun. Eliza’s little brother, William, loves to flip the Christmas lights on. They make for an instant celebration, or so I’ve convinced them.
I cleaned the kitchen while Tom brought Eliza home. My heart was full. I reveled in the joy our sweetest little girl brought. It took only a small bit of effort and creativity to light up her face, and more importantly inscribe a memory of family togetherness.
I recalled similar tea parties enjoyed by our children—refreshment after a long day at school. Then there were fancy grown-up tea parties in our home for showers and birthdays. I would devote weeks to prepare for the many I hosted over the years. Out would come the antique silver platters and tiered trays, the stemmed crystal and my grandmother’s tea cups, each one unique. I enjoyed every minute of the work. All the delectable baked goods came from my kitchen; scones, muffins, chocolate crinkle cookies and more.
A moment in time was marked and etched into memory as honor was placed on one special person. I hoped she’d feel inspired and encouraged from that day on. After everyone left, I’d let out an exhausted sigh and smile. Special times with friends are treasured memories I’ll always hold.
My thoughts jumped back to the present—my recent honoree’s delight over something simple that made her feel special and loved. Right before Eliza went home, she said in a startled voice, “Oh no, I forgot to wear my pretty dress!” I told her it was okay, I had my pajamas on too; that’s what we wear to a breakfast tea party!
The morning reminded me of my “why”. Why we make monthly trips from Columbia to Wilmington. Why we bought a smaller house after we sold our “life long” home in Wilmington.
Why home is so very crucial to our lives. Not a perfectly staged home from Instagram, but a perfectly imperfect home with a sense of order, creativity, good books, puzzles and a sofa and pillows where you can snuggle and hide.
It occurred to me that a home wears different hats for different seasons. It’s organic. It greets us and loves us in different ways according to what we need at the time. At this time, our house in Wilmington has a special purpose. It’s to bring our family and friends together as often as possible. For our relationships to grow deeper roots, as we grow together.
I try to stay content in what seems like an in-between season. I still miss our big home after three years, but I’ve come to understand something. Everything that made our home special had to do with people. The Christmases, the parties, babies in the crib, the family dinners, bad table manners, the dances, the laughter and silliness, neighborhood get-togethers, surfing down the stairs, small group Bible studies; these and a thousand more things make home something to cherish.