Here I go:
“Do you mind if I bring my snake?” David asked Josh, maybe in a text message two Mays ago. I didn’t mind, as long as she stayed where snakes stay, in glass cages. David moved in a short while later, snake and opinions in tow, along with Derek, the post-military intelligence, twenty-something, who lived almost two lives in his short years. And Rachel unloaded the truck into the room across the hall, two steps from Josh and me. These were our first roommates.
We argued the nutritional value of bacon in the kitchen and if boys were better than girls in the living room. Ah-ha moments about God and the Holy Spirit mixed themselves in. Prank wars were threatened but only barely acted upon. There was some tickling and tackling and so much laughing. There were always dishes in the sink. There were many late, tired nights. There was a baby in a belly growing arms and legs. And often there was Rachel sitting on my bed, whispering to me that I should rest, listening to the Baby Blessings CD and wishing we could hear God say these things to us.
|Rachel when we met at the camping trip. We were friends in minutes.|
Then summer ended and the basement boys moved out. And so did Rachel. And in came Jeff and Joe. Joe the guitar player with wild curly hair and a laugh that took up all the room. Jeff fresh from a paid trip to the desert, a little sunburnt and full of some revelation about himself. He and his dark green gear and shaved head took Derek’s old room and Joe moved in to the room without a snake. And then we were mostly just a house of boys. It was me against Bear and Josh and Jeff and Joe, and the tiny in my belly, John, who was mostly on my side, but maybe not by choice. Christy saved the day across the hall some time in September with girly clothes and some late nights talking about boys. And just before a baby came she found her big-girl apartment and off she went exploring.
|Jeff, Joe, Josh and John in a bundle, all being exactly like themselves.|
Then the John we’d all been waiting for came after so much time, and nearly all the world came to see him when I’d not slept for nearly three entire days. And we came back home and that was when John and I cried, and I don’t think Jeff or Joe saw any more crying from any two people than they did that November.
|He was really that small, I promise you.|
Then in January Jeff married Emma, and they had been moved out for only just a breath and then back in across the hall from us, the room for guests but for Christy before them, right next to the baby. And Jeff and Emma became Auntie Ems and Unky Jeff, and all was right like that for two months or so. They learned how to put on a diaper at least.
|Mawwage looks nice on you two.|
|The Wheatley wedding reception was a family affair.|
They they sold the truck and bought a hippie car and found their own space in the world, which was good but we missed them. And Joe made his first guitar and it looked so nice and sounded even better. And everyone was proud. Then Joe graduated and moved to his space too.
|Joe plays guitar and swings a bat. Here he's just singing his heart out.|
And then we were an empty house. For just a minute. Long enough to walk around and feel all the quiet and think something might be wrong and enjoy it all the same.
Soon came Allie, sort of. She needed a place to sleep only for thirty days or so because she was a busy blonde fiancée planning to marry her dashing Ryan who lived only a few blocks away. And so we saw that she stayed the night by the rumpled clothes on her bed, but rarely saw her until after she walked down the aisle in ivory.
|Allie and her man, who looks like a sock monkey, but he's really a guy named Ryan.|
And then the music came back to the house, with Megan and Kelley, two missionaries on the sojourn to Ireland, needing a landing spot for a while. And this time it was someone else’s turn to grow a baby – theirs. And Rachel came back because we liked her and she liked us, and we thought how much fun we all had last summer and maybe we should just do it again. She was brought her keyboard and more music. So the married people moved into the room Jeff and Derek and Allie had slept in, and Rachel took David and Joe’s room. And both rooms got a nice makeover, one yellow and one purple. And there was more laughing and late nights and belly watching and baby planning. And Christy came back again, in the middle of it all, just to stay for a week or a month.
|Megan and Kelley, in barn and Irish red|
But then Rachel moved home and so Christy went downstairs into a room that once housed a snake and two boys and a girl before her. And she gave it another makeover, this time with Pier1 warms – and made it feels so homey. And Christy just never quite left.
|The very beautiful and radiant Christy|
We try to forget, but some time in there, the bathroom had terrible problems of flooding and the couple with growing belly were moving graciously in and out of their room. And I couldn’t believe all the grace, all the kindness they gave to us as we tried so hard to fix the thing. And we finally did. And the bathroom got a fix-up, with a bathtub and tiles and some other niceties.
And then, another baby. A Liam.
And then Emma was here for a moment or two, waiting for Jeff to get back. And she sat on our couch and searched her inside eye for perfect lighting on her portrait subjects and scoured her Mac and the Scriptures for perfect understanding on the biggest, longest paper she will ever write. A sign she is almost done with college. And then Jeff came back and everyone was happy. I am sad now because the only pictures of that moment are the ones in my mind. And right away, they went home together, though she arrived alone.
|The Liam grows...more and more like Dad every day. :)|
And Josh and John and I are living here in this big, huge-small space with a wide, open door that swings in and out, with arms stretched to try to take in all the love that is poured out and squishing the little ones we're growing up; with faces lifted to breathe in the aromas of Kelley’s coffee and Henry’s cooking. And ears straining to hear the singing and strumming from the basement. The sounds of worship.
We live like this, a community, a small family at the end of a block, learning to wash each other’s dishes, struggling to discover what honor looks like to our neighbors, this family. We’re doing this the best we can, which is a mess most days, but the closeness is so warm and worth it. And on the worst weeks when things are going badly, and the dishes are still dirty, and it feels that everyone else is selfish and navelgazing, we look around and know, we can’t have life any other way.