a place to call home

I grew up, from age nine, in an old, rambling house. Actually it was only about 30 years old when we moved into it – the same age as my current house is now – but it seemed older then. Originally the house was built away from town as a river retreat.  It was situated on a high bank along the Cumberland River in Nashville, and it faced the river, not the road. The first time I saw it (from the back side) I thought it was quite ugly.

It was covered in white cypress shingles, with a green roof and green shutters, built in the Cape Cod style, sort of. There had been at least three additions when we bought it, changing the original size and shape. The earliest part of the house consisted of a large great room, a kitchen, and a bedroom and bath downstairs. Upstairs was another bedroom and half bath. The basement under the original part of the house had walls of large blocks of stone, a cement floor, and a low ceiling.

The main room was large, with a wood-beamed ceiling and a stone fireplace. By the time my parents bought it, another bedroom and bath, and a separate garage connected by a breezeway, plus a dining room had all been added. The people who owned it had a few pieces of furniture they didn’t want, so we got those as part of the deal. I still have one of those bookcases in our home today.

The owner had been injured during “the war” (probably WWII) and had a limp arm. The couple didn’t have any children, but they had an older black man that lived with them in a separate apartment who did a lot of the physical work on the one acre property. He was deaf and mute, and I think they each took care of the other.

Before we moved into this house my parents and I had lived in an upstairs apartment over my father’s parents’ house. It was tiny. Moving into this house was a little intimidating because it was so big. My bedroom was upstairs and at first I was frightened to sleep up there by myself. My mother’s mother had moved in with us, and my bedroom was right above hers. That didn’t make me feel any safer, but I did learn to walk softly and avoid any squeaking floor boards.

My parents lived in this house for 37 years. Along the way they added a small breakfast room and remodeled the kitchen. About fifteen years in they also added a big room upstairs, which we called the “new room” for the remainder of the time they lived there. One of my favorite spots was called the “sewing room” and was little more than a large closet. It did have a window (for good sewing light) and a dormer, and room enough for two sewing machines so both my mother and grandmother could create things there. And there was also space in another corner for an ironing board,which stayed up all the time.

The driveway was U-shaped so you could come in one end and go out the other, and there was another hook that went all the way around the house and ended up at the back door. My mother planted azaleas outside the dining room addition and my grandfather (who also came to live with us after his wife died) planted iris all along the river bank. There was a small patio out there with a brick barbeque grill/oven, and a swing that looked out across the river and the bottom land on the other side. (This land eventually became the campground near Opryland, which was right up the river.) I can remember several luaus we decorated lavishly for out along that bank.

As a teenager my friends loved coming to parties at our home. My parents were wonderful hosts, and they loved to have guests. The house was always lit with candles in every nook and cranny. The hill on the road out front was the beginning of a long slope that was perfect for sledding, and I can remember days when a fire was built in the ditch for warmth and friends tramped in and out all day between rides. Our children loved going to visit Meemom and Granddaddy at this home. By then the fireplace had been bricked and clutter was starting to take over, but the colored bottle collection still lined the den windows and my parents gave them (our children) a lot of love.

Eventually my parents suffered from various illnesses and in the end had to leave this house. By that time it was way too much for them and we were all happy when they were gone from there. But since then, as memories do, the good times have replaced the unhappy remembrances, and in many ways we long to see that house again. A couple of years ago my daughter and I drove by, saw that it was for sale, and drove right up to the house like that was an OK thing to do.

We found it empty, so we looked in every window we could reach. It was the same, yet different, remodeled and repainted, but still “our house.” The empty rooms didn’t hold anyone else’s furniture yet, and the outside porches and walkways hadn’t even been touched. We made a few pictures of the outside. I said I would call the realtor and we would come back and take a tour. I looked online and saw what nice work had been done to the rooms inside. But we never did get back.

Someday I am going to call the current owners and just see…. Maybe they will offer to let me come in. I know my family will be anxious to walk though it again as well – we all have a special connection to this old place. In the meantime I treated myself to a canvas picture of the house as a gift to myself this Christmas. For now, it will have to do. That, and our memories, of a place we can all call home.


a place we can all call home

a place we can all call home

all is bright

December has held true to its expectations this year. When I think of this month, I can feel the cold and cloudy days. The sun rarely shines in my mental image of December. It is almost as if the year realizes that its age is showing, and it avoids any bright light that could shine on its plainness and point out the barren places.

Somehow all that deep green foliage that miraculously became those gloriously colored leaves in the fall is now all gone. Fallen and blown away, leaving behind twisted sticks and branches that overlap and intertwine but have nothing to hold on to. The brown grass and rusty colored sage cover the lawns and fields and show few signs of life. Even the evergreens droop in the cold and the heaviness of the dark.

The days wake up late and are snuffed out incredibly early in the afternoon. The sun becomes distant even when the clouds are parted. The cold surrounds and envelopes you, and creeps into your bones and your being.

In the cycle of nature’s year, this is definitely the low point. I cannot imagine a world where this is the sum total of all there ever is.

And so it makes perfect sense to me that Christmas comes at this time. Even though Jesus’s birth may not have historically occurred in December, that’s when I need that good news the most. God, through His Son’s birth, brings light into this dark world. He looks at the bare bones of our existence, and shows His mercy to a world dark and drear.

God brought His Son into a simple world in a lowly place. He placed a bright star in the sky to show the way to a true Light for our lives.  His Love, as always, comes when we need it most.

Since that time, this dull time of year holds a shimmer and a glow that covers the dullness of the world around us. The light from candles and bulbs, as well as from smiles and open hearts, guides our way in the darkest of days. Enduring this time of year is possible because of our memories and our hopes.

Led by the light of a start sweetly gleaming

With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.

It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.

Merry Christmas, one and all. The days are already getting longer and God’s love surrounds and warm our souls.

All is calm,

All is bright.

letting in the light

During our thirty-five years of marriage, we have had the privilege of building three houses. In two of those homes, we had a friend create leaded glass door surrounds. She is quite an artist, and she has the most charming Southern accent, combined with an animated and enthusiastic way of speaking. Plus she is a former teacher, a grandmother of triplets, a gracious hostess, a community leader, a style setter with her clothing, and even a great cook. So how she has time to do these huge projects, as well as the many smaller pieces she creates, is beyond my understanding. What energy! What a talent! How fortunate we were to have her do these for us.

The house we live in now we did not build. It needed some TLC when we purchased it, and there have been numerous projects that needed our touch in the nine years we have lived here. Some were crucial for the well-being of the structure, and we started our work with those.  Others were more aesthetic, and they came later in the process. Our front door was one of those subsequent undertakings.

The door itself is solid wood with a beautiful carved design – probably the most handsome door we have ever had. But around this door were narrow sidelights and a transom of plain glass. The light could come in, but it wasn’t stylish or even pleasing to look at. So we called our friend and asked if she could, once again, work her magic for us.

It is as unique as the other two she created, and just as wonderful. This time her husband, the owner of a building supply store and a talented pianist himself, came and installed it (rather than our builder, as was previously done). That in itself was a treat, because she had lots of advice for him as she sat on our stairs and watched him work. He ignored it all as if he didn’t hear her. He finally said, “I know what I am doing here,” and even though he may not have done it just as she said (after all, with all her talent and hard work, she has never installed one herself), it is perfect.

This is what our front door looks like now from the inside of our front hall:

leaded glass door surround

And in the morning, when the sun shines through, this is the enchanting sight on the wall opposite the door:


Look closely and you’ll see that it really is magical:


A combination of God’s bright light and our friend’s talent. We feel very blessed in our home sweet home.