Children are not casual guests in our home.
They have been loaned to us temporarily for the purpose of loving them and
instilling a foundation of values on which their future lives will be built.
(The home of past and present while Dad was still living inside / Julie Cook / 2017)
A very long time ago, my mom and I would often go on Saturday mornings to
Symphony Hall of which was adjacent to the then High Museum of Art…
Atlanta’s fledgling art museum.
Since I don’t actually recall what they called those music and brunch events,
I’ll just say it was pastries and music.
The Atlanta Symphony would provide a breakfast/brunch of various
pastries and beverages and then put on a small yet lovely concert.
My mother had joined the museum early on as my grandmother, her mother-n-law,
was one of the early promoters for Atlanta to get her own museum.
She and my grandfather were to have flown on that fateful flight in 1962 to and from
Orlay, France but opted not to go…
This is what Wikipedia has in a nutshell on that flight:
Air France Flight 007 crashed on 3 June 1962 while on take-off from Orly Airport.
Air France had just opened its new office in downtown Atlanta, and this was the inaugural flight.
Air France was doing its best to publicize the flight; hence,
it was filled with Atlanta’s elite.
The only survivors of the disaster were two flight attendants seated
in the back of the aircraft;
the rest of the flight crew, and all 122 passengers on board the Boeing 707,
The crash was at the time the worst single-aircraft disaster and the first single
civilian jet airliner disaster with more than 100 deaths.
The so-called “Atlanta elite” were the leading art patrons of the city.
They were hoping to forge a relationship between France and Atlanta as
the up and coming southern city was looking to develop an artistic and cultural footing.
But that is all another story for another day…
today’s thoughts are different.
When I was a young teacher, I found myself spending summers at the High Museum of Art
taking courses for art educators.
I’d spend weeks driving from Carrollton to Atlanta—back and forth daily
for the duration of each course.
During one particular course, our instructor had us keep a journal/ sketch pad
within arms reach at all times.
She would assign various tasks for the sketchpad and would also encourage us to reflect
in the journals about the assignments.
When I found myself at the Museum, wandering about,
I noted just how difficult it was for me not to think almost constantly about my mom.
I had lost her six years prior and so the Museum, along with Atlanta in general, still held
many shadows of my past.
It was often heavy shadows that I was very much aware of.
It was as if some specter was constantly walking by my side when I was in town.
It was often a very palpable sensation.
During one assignment, assignment 6 to be exact, the instructor had us wander off
and write about something…what that something was eludes me now but this
is what I wrote…along with a note I offered to the instructor who I knew would be
reading what we had written…included is also her comment back to me…
(the doodles of an old journal / Julie Cook / 2019)
“locked deep within my heart is someone I no longer know–
Forced back inside by anger and overwhelming pain.
Was it by choice or convenience that you left?
Your agony was short-lived, 6 weeks is what we counted but how long had you been counting?
Your presence lingers in the shadow of my daily life…and I often think I hear your voice
while my heart will skip a beat.
I don’t cry as much anymore.
Six years has brought healing or either a welcomed numbness.
I use to scream and yell at you for leaving me.
I don’t know if I’ve ever forgiven you or not.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ve forgotten how to pray.
I’m not the same person that you left, you wouldn’t recognize me–
I often don’t recognize myself.
With your death, there cane a death within my soul.
A part of me went back inside, In life, you never thought you mattered much,
but in death, the impact of you and the lack of you has changed me forever.
(Note: my mother died 6 years ago from cancer.
The illness was very short-lived–
which was a blessing—but so fast it was like a blur.
As a teenager, she was my enemy.
As a ‘grown-up’, she was my best friend.
It’s just that I never told her that.
My mourning and dealing with the loss has been very much a private thing with me.
I didn’t have the opportunity at the time–because of taking care of my dad.
So–sometimes I can write down and express it.
She and I use to participate in a lot of museum/symphony activities—
so one of her shadows haunts me here–
but it is a part of the life long healing)
Response: Julie, I hope you don’t mind but I read this note to your mother–
it’s beautiful and universal-(love the reflection in the eye)
And so this incident and particular journal entry all came flooding back to the forefront
of my consciousness this past week when I found myself back in Atlanta.
While on my recent nursing duties, caring for our ailing Sheriff,
my daughter-n-law and I were chatting…and I think I made some off the cuff comment
about my hating the house…the same house they call home.
“You hate the house?!,” she asked with alarm.
“Yes” I nonchalantly replied.
“You hate what we’ve done to it?” she fretted.
Not at all…
I love what you’ve all done…making it yours!
I just hate the past part of the house that was mine…
Many of you already know that the house our son and daughter-n-law call home
is actually the house I grew up in…having moved into when I was all of two years old.
Just about the Mayor’s same age.
It is the home of my childhood.
A childhood and growing up that consisted of tremendous dysfunction.
I often wonder what life would have been like had my parents not adopted my brother.
What if they had gotten a different baby?
Or no baby?
Would our lives have been different?
But what is normal?
There’s not a spot that I can’t stand inside, outside, in the basement,
out in the yard or even on the driveway that I can’t recall some sort of
melancholy or even dramatic event.
I even remember getting out of bed late one night, when I was still in high school,
stealing away to the sun porch where I closed off the door to the rest of the house
and knelt by a chair that had been my grandparents,
praying that God would bless me with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
I thought if anything could fend off the madness inside this house,
it would be the Holy Spirit.
I also vividly remember when finishing my prayer…I felt no different.
Fruits, for me, have been a process of living.
I think God knows I need more time to ripen than most.
After having spent the past 8 days at the house, caring for the Sheriff
and the Mayor, I headed home late Friday evening…
It was a terrible sight to behold—A Friday evening, attempting to
merge onto the top-end of the Perimeter…
I found myself, once again, with tears streaming down my cheeks
as I made my way onto the interstate—
not because of the ridiculous traffic nightmare I was about to be entering into but
rather because of what I was leaving behind.
My two precious grandchildren.
I was to have stayed until Saturday night as we had plans to visit
Santa Saturday then have dinner out as a family to celebrate my upcoming
milestone birthday…but…I was headed home to die in bed.
Here it was, the height of rush hour, I was sick with the Sheriff’s crud and
I was headed home only to miss out on the Sherrif’s first Santa visit…
I felt as if I had let them down.
Let myself down.
But that part actually turned out ok…depending on who you ask.
The Sherrif was still too sick to venture out to the mall…
so it was just The Mayor and her father who went to see Santa.
In her pretty red, green and black plaid tafia dress
(I didn’t have a tafia dress until I was getting married),
black tights, black patterned leather shoes and matching hair bow…
The Mayor marched herself right down the aisle of the mall happily holding
her dad’s hand…up until…until she had to go boldly forth,
The video I later received let us all know that the visit was actually
on the disastrous side as the Mayor squawled non-stop upon Santa’s lap.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
But on that Friday night, feeling like crap and totally exhausted,
which more than likely lead to my melancholy mood, all the while tiptoeing
my way through a sea of red brake lights and cars,
I found myself asking…oddly asking an inanimate structure a question
or maybe it was more of a favor.
If a house could…if a house could actually offer, or perhaps afford,
those within its walls comfort, affection, protection, joy, happiness, peace and warmth…
would it please do so for this next continuum of my world?
The past will always be the past…for good or bad…
but for this newest generation…I ask for your kindness and love…
For what makes a house a home?
And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true,
and you have promised this good thing to your servant.
Now therefore may it please you to bless the house of your servant,
so that it may continue forever before you. For you,
O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your
servant be blessed forever.”
2 Samuel 7:28-29 ESV