Seventy four years. My dad’s parents bought their house on Yolanda Ave. when it was built, in 1947 during the post-war boom. Grandma needs help these days, she’s 92. So she’s moving in with my folks and her house has been sold. Tomorrow she walks out of that house, and our extended family is collectively mourning the loss of our gathering place, the spot we’re all from, our home. Strangely too, we’ve almost all lived there – the list of Willsons and various married-surnames’ mail that still arrives in that mailbox is really rather ridiculous.
From 1982 until the late 90’s Grandma and Papa traveled in their RV, and first my parents and I, and later my Uncle Rick’s family, lived in that house. My family actually moved in before they left, I began 1st Grade at the school up the street in 1980 and loved that short season of living with grandparents. We moved to the East Coast in 1984, my next brother just a baby. So only my youngest two siblings who were both born in Maine didn’t get to call that house on Yolanda home. All my cousins lived there. We all learned how to swim in the backyard pool. I learned how to ride a bike on the Yolanda sidewalk. And vividly recall falling off that same bike and breaking my wrist, my first broken bone. Years later the home would again welcome my little family temporarily as we returned from Hungary in 2003 – our kids adjusted to life back in America on Yolanda, and we realized our boys didn’t know the word ‘sidewalk’ there in front of the house.
Papa was born on July 5th, so for most of my life any 4th of July party also meant a Birthday Cake for Papa, and several big family reunions were planned around this holiday weekend, made extra special for our family. Summer is Grandma’s, and Papa’s favorite – the hotter the better. And rowdy gatherings full of wet kids, BBQ’s and card games – always games, was how they loved to celebrate anything. It was always extra special to watch my kids enjoying the same house, jumping into the same pool, as I’d done all my childhood. We lived just a town over from 1998-2000, before our time in Hungary, so while our boys were toddlers. During my family’s 8 years of living in Denver, CO we came out to visit family in CA every other summer, plus a few other trips so we were almost there every year from 2003-2011. For my kids that house on Yolanda was one of the biggest constants in their young lives – we kept moving around, even I’d moved as a kid, but Grandma & Papa’s house was always still the same.
I’m processing much, been doing it for the past few months since we’ve all known this was for sure happening. Buying our new home here in Szeged has me thinking all sorts of house, home, location, family thoughts. Our general contractor said something that caught my attention, “You buy the four walls and the land they’re on, everything else about it can be changed.” When my grandparents bought their four walls and land on Yolanda seventy four years ago, they had no idea how long their family would keep gathering there, or that their great-grandchildren would one day not just play in the yard, but get mail and call it home as well, as young adults.
It’s not a legacy about a house, not really. Rather, it’s a legacy of hospitality and the active love of family. See, that house became home not just to all of us born to Grandma & Papa’s two sons – but also to the many adopted ‘family’ they always welcomed in. They were foster parents for many years. My dad talks of how when he was in High School Grandma would do a head count on weekend mornings before making pancakes because there were always extra friends who had fallen asleep on the couch. One of those extra sons is actually who bought the house, he always respectfully called them Mr. & Mrs. Willson, but his kids call her Grandma. And that fact that so many of us cousins have called those walls home – that’s not just because rent in CA is ridiculously high, that’s because to Grandma family has always come first. And her love, her following Jesus, has always shown itself in an open door and welcoming heart.
I’m sad to be losing such a special constant in my life, but I’m so very thankful that the heart behind it, the joy behind those gatherings, the faithfulness of my grandparent’s lives – that legacy isn’t stuck to any walls or any plot of land. That legacy lives on. It lives on in Maine, where my parents have opened their doors too. It lives on in Oregon, Utah, Ohio, across the valley in California, where cousins live and love their families. It lives on in England, in Colorado and here in Hungary – each place one of us who knew Yolanda Ave. as home now settle and make a new ‘home’. The walls and land are different, but how we make it all a home echo back – we use some of the same recipes, play the same games, and welcome friends and family in with that same love. I don’t have a pool, so the kids won’t be all wet, but I hope they feel the same welcome and know that within our four walls they are loved, always.
Here’s to seventy four years on Yolanda Ave, here’s to Jesus’ love at Dick & Lill’s Home, may my home carry on their legacy.