Gran's Apple Butter Blog

February 7, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: On The Inside (8VII)

Chapter 8 ~ On The Inside

Of course, Gran’s home was close to spotless – she didn’t keep any dust bunnies around. Gran was the only person I knew who vacuumed every day of the week except Sundays, then walked around picking up specks of link no one else could see. She had grandma eyes. You know – ones that can spot a dirty fingernail a mile away. That comes in handy with dust bunnies.

Gran was smart enough to see her own weakness. She knew keeping her house so clean qualified as a rather large Glaring Error in her quest to step away from perfectionitis. She never encouraged me to sweep my house every day, and I think she was secretly proud that her daughter rebelled against this practice.

In spite of that personal weak spot, or perhaps because of it, Gran had a theory about immaculate houses. She felt pretty sure it simply wasn’t possible to keep a squeaky clean house in this ol’ world and be truly happy and healthy inside it. She’d come to realize that her extreme cleanliness, rather than being a straight shot on up to godliness, was actually more of a cover-up for things she couldn’t hide or hadn’t been ready to change – things she’d had to come to terms with.

True, her house was beautiful – it looked lovely. She was always ready for company, but that made it challenging to spend time indoors. Maybe that’s why we sat on the porch so much. You didn’t want to walk away from your book or plate or knitting or whatever else you might be doing – when you came back, it’d be gone.

After some digging Gran began to see what that house represented to her, and why she was keeping it so carefully, hoping to distract others – especially herself – from what was going on inside. For a long time, she’d thought that if she could keep the outside surfaces spotless, that might make the inside spotless too. Then one day she was reading about the pots of the Pharisees, how they were pretty on the outside in a way that only covered up the darkness within, [i] and it hit her that this sounded a lot like her own home.

It must have hit pretty hard, ‘cause for years to come, Gran’s house was never the same. It looked like a construction zone, and no frilly dust cover was big enough to hide that. She went to work on that house in a very different way, and the end result was a sight to behold, inside and out, the parts you could see and the ones you could only feel. A lot changed. Some of the changes were hard to live through, but she said it was totally worth it, and she only wished she’d started the whole process sooner.

She learned something from all this that she tried hard to teach me. Sometimes we look at others and compare our lives to theirs. We get to feeling sorry for ourselves, complaining that life is so hard, and why this and why that and “it’s not fair.” We look at our neighbor’s big house and perfect family and get a little green twinge inside, thinking, why can’t my life be like that? When this happens, Gran said, it would serve us well to remember her story, or even Tina and Stan’s – the homeless rich girl and the bridge-dwelling king.

Not being one to learn by example, I later found out for myself how right Gran was. The way things appear on the outside may be very different from how they are on the inside, and only those on the inside know what’s really going on. Sometimes the prettiest appearances are just facades, set on display for the world to see. We paint our own walls and don’t even realize we’re doing it.

It takes time – sometimes a long time – to ever see this. At least it did for me. In the process I learned not to look at others and wish my feet were in their shoes. I began to look with my heart as well as my eyes, which made all the difference in the world.

One thing about it, I’ve learned to look past a little dust in my house – the brick-and-mortar one, anyway. Who has time for it? Let’s keep things neat, and relatively clean, but hey – that dust is gonna be back in two or three days, tops. And I’m pretty sure I have more important things to do on the inside of these walls. Those few little dust bunnies lying around, they’ll be ok. I’ll take care of them before they get out of hand.

But for now, I’ll just give ‘em names and make sure they don’t go hungry, and we’ll be pals for a while. And I’m pretty good with that.

[i]Mark 7:1-23, KJV


© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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January 31, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: Good Housekeeping (8VI)

Chapter 8 ~ Good Housekeeping

Housekeeping: Yup, that’s what I said. Weren’t expecting that one, were you? Neither was I, the first time Gran mentioned it. I didn’t think being at home meant resting on my laurels and eating bon-bons all day, did I?

Once we have a chance to relax for a bit, our next lesson is all about keeping house and homemaking. Even reflected homes need to be cared for, maintained, and occasionally spruced up. You don’t have to start making stained glass windows with dried-out nail polish chips (although Gran said that was a highly creative idea), but there are some valuable lessons to be learned here.

As we sat on the front steps one day, watching autumn leaves drop with the tranquility of winter’s first breath, Gran told me about the old idea of our body – our home – being a temple. This was new for me, ‘cause I felt more like a tom boy than an altar boy, so I just kept quiet and listened. How different might our lives be if we believed this, about all our homes – from our bodies and four walls to our communities, our families, our jobs? And what if we acted on this belief?

Gran said the word temple means a place where God lives. Sometimes that’s a tent in a desert, sometimes it’s a dome with golden towers on top, sometimes it’s a cave, sometimes a cathedral, and sometimes it’s the heart of a little girl, just like me.

I liked that idea, so I decided that since my body was this House of God, I’d better take very good care of it. I would respect it and love it, and ask others to do the same. Gran was pretty happy with that decision. She tried to hide it, but her eyes gave her away.

In fact, Gran thought this was so important she called me the week before she died to remind me to sweep my “house” at least once a week. Don’t forget the attic and the basement, she said, where the biggest dust balls build up, ‘cause they think we won’t notice ‘em in the darkness. Clearly, she wasn’t sure if I’d fully mastered the concept.

Only later did I begin to understand on how many levels this applied. It’s not just about protecting the carpet. You see, dust balls have a life of their own – we don’t have to carry them in. They’ll help themselves to an open door or come sifting through a window screen, then do their best to blend in to a corner. When we let stuff stack up in front of those corners or that dark, creepy place under the stairs, it gets harder and harder to see what’s underneath, what’s causing the whole mess.

Conversely, if we stay on top of things, our pet dust bunny may never turn into a wild, raging dust-demon. But then again, that’s just my theory…

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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