Tag Archives: home

This Old House

I realize that “old” is a state of mind and not a specific age.  I also realize that old is often my state of mind.  Some circumstances are less than helpful.  My parents are gone.  My sisters are grandparents.  My children are adults.  My hair color is Caucasian, and my beard is gray.  I am blind in one eye and increasingly cannot see out of the other.  I thought Pokemon GO was a statement granting a Jamaican proctologist permission to proceed.

But contrary to popular opinion, old isn’t necessarily bad.

If all went as planned, this post will publish as I fly back to California after a family visit in Arkansas.  It had been a couple of years since I visited, and it was good to go “home” for a few days, even though Arkansas has not really been home for nearly two decades.  On these increasingly sporadic trips, I always make a point to see the little place on West Mueller Street that I called home for the first couple of decades of my life.  My parents rented the tiny house for sixty dollars a month until I was in high school, and I still remember the day that the landlord increased the rent to ninety and my dad went apoplectic.  He took it as a personal insult given the thoughtful care he donated to the place.

The little house went downhill after the Sturgeon family moved out sometime around 1990, and it always made me sad to see its deteriorating condition.  An overgrown yard.  Broken down cars.  Peeling siding.  In particular, I would always look to see if the basketball goal my dad mounted on the roof of the garage was still there, and amazingly, year after year, it held on.  A couple of years ago, it appeared to be holding on by a thread, dangling from the plywood backboard looking more like a lone gymnastic ring than a basketball goal, but it was still there.

I won many dramatic NCAA and NBA championships on that goal, and I couldn’t tell you how many beautiful cheerleaders fell in love with me in my imagination given my astounding heroic feats on that cracked, cement driveway.  My dad often sat on the porch silently just watching me play.

Well, it finally happened.  The goal is gone now after a good run of forty years or so.  And it made me feel a little older.

But you know, in a sense, even without that old basketball hoop, I still feel like my dad is sitting on the porch watching me, and that provides great comfort.  And, in another sense, I get to take his place on the porch and watch my children live out their dreams in this life, and since he was my first hero, taking his seat is a pretty great thing to do.

Yes, contrary to popular opinion, old isn’t necessarily bad.

Resurrection

My faith leads me to believe in resurrection, not just as a one-time event but as a truth that can provide hope to any circumstance. This entire blog—Starting to Look Up—is a direct reflection of that idea.

Saturday marked the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which received varying levels of attention throughout the country.  Some of you know that my family experienced Katrina firsthand and have heard more than enough about it from me; however, many of our new friends in California had no idea and have kindly expressed interest.  To the latter, you may be interested to know that I wrote a little journal that described our experiences in the months that followed the storm, and recently, although a bit embarrassed, I published the journal through a print-on-demand outlet–embarrassed in part from not appreciating my grammatical deficiencies until law school made them apparent, but also because I did not clean it up at all, i.e., no editing, no page numbers, etc. But that may be appropriate since the entire Katrina experience was a tad messy.

For a flavor, here is an entry from the book that was published as a letter to the editor in the Sun Herald newspaper for Christmas 2005. Now, in retrospect a decade later, I believe even more strongly in resurrection and ever-present hope.

I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

In August 1943, over six decades before Hurricane Katrina, Kim Gannon and Walter Kent copyrighted a song titled, “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.” That same year Bing Crosby recorded their brand new song, and it became an instant holiday classic. For its first Christmas, it comforted thousands of American homes ripped apart at the hands of the Second World War, but this was only its big beginning. It has comforted many more every Christmas season since.

There is something both mournful and peaceful about the tune and lyrics:

I’ll be home for Christmas / You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe / and presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me / Where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas / If only in my dreams

It plays well in Mississippi this 2005 holiday season, too.

Long ago, I was taught the difference between a house and a home. A house (I learned) has a roof and walls, while a home consists of people. It was a clear distinction. Using these handy definitions of course, the tens of thousands of Gulf Coast residents facing the Christmas season displaced from their “houses” should just toughen up and be downright holiday-happy that they can be “home” for Christmas in a tent, or in a trailer courtesy of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or even several states away from where their mailbox stood in August.

But I don’t like the definition. Not anymore.

I, for one, think ornaments lovingly handcrafted by sticky three-year-old hands from years gone by are an important part of a home. And I think pictures of Christmases past, with fresh looks of surprise at the sight of a newly-opened presents, are just a downright vital part of a home, too. You can disagree all you want. And I think rarely-seen homemade videos of the last Christmas together before the kids took off for college, and cookbooks with that special recipe for fudge, and that Bing Crosby CD we always listened to on Christmas morning, are all very important ingredients in this wonderful word called “home.”

And this Christmas, thousands upon thousands of these precious ingredients are piled in a landfill somewhere. This is why I think a lot of things about this particular Christmas season sucks. Pardon my French.

Oh, but we’ll make the best of it. There will be downright cute attempts at making a FEMA trailer (of all things) festive. There will be Christmas dinners in hotel rooms and readings of “The Night Before Christmas” with more family members in residence than normal, and important explanations that Santa Claus not only comes down chimneys, but he also comes right through the flap on the tent.

We’ll do our best. And Christmas, believe it or not, will still help us. After all, it revolves around the story of a displaced family living in a barn. And how that story is the birth of hope for the whole world. We need to hear that story most desperately this year.

But in spite of it all – even while considering the very source of hope – we will sing that old Bing Crosby song with extra meaning this year.

Yes, we residents of the Gulf Coast will be home for Christmas, but this year, it will only be in our dreams.