Friday night we were invited to dinner by the new owners of Dan’s deceased mom’s house. Initially, the house was sold to Mrs. Arp’s neighbors who intended to use it as a rental property. Before it could be rented, however, repairs had to be made.
Mrs. Arp’s final years found her wheelchair bound, and her 1968 house’s narrow halls and doorways suffered wheelchair damage. When the renovations were finished, the neighbors invited us to tour the house. It was well done, walls painted a soft gray, new floors and retrofitted bathrooms. It was lovely; lovely but empty, with no traces of Mrs. Arp left. It made us sad.
After two unsuccessful years as landlords, the neighbors offered to sell the house to one of their sons, Phil. Phil, his wife and two young children had been living in a small camper for several months; having sold their old home in anticipation of Phil building a new one for the family. Parking a camper on the building site had been a cost-cutting measure but very tall Phil, his wife, and their very young, lively children had been living in the small, head-bumping space for quite a while. When they were offered Mrs. Arp’s home, they jumped at the chance. They have now lived in Mrs. Arp’s former home for a scant few months; they are still unpacking.
We were delighted to accept Phil’s dinner invitation. We wanted to get to know the family better and we secretly hoped to come away with a different memory of the house. Much to our delight, our hope was more than accomplished. The house is filled with an excited young family, very pleased with the house and themselves, and is complete with two beautiful, bouncy children, an intelligent, attractive, well-experienced nurse mom who now chooses to stay home to raise her kids, and a tall, dark and handsome husband.
During our meal, the older child brought a book to me. My librarian’s heart was delighted, and I invited her to my lap for a book reading. Her younger sister came over and joined us, causing the girls to wiggle around for more room. I did the best I could with my arms around them both so nobody would fall off. We read “The Little Engine That Could.”
When I would pause because something interesting seemed to be happening in the adult conversation, I was firmly directed back to the story. I was in Heaven, a lovely child-inhabited place that afforded me snatches of interesting adult stories. I heard some of the father’s Navy days, one adventure being an inadvertent encounter with Somali pirates. The mother’s nursing experiences in so many varied fields were intriguing, and the relating of her unintentional arrival at a gun-drawn drug deal that occurred in a parking lot, next to her car was frightening. The children had lots of long little girls’ stories to share, some of which I could understand.
A 1968 retirement dream home, built by a delighted couple, well-loved for 51 years, is now inhabited by another delighted couple. Plans, conversations and children’s giggles fill the rooms. The house is alive again. As we were leaving, I thought, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mama Arp, your house is once again filled with love. I know it makes you happy.”
“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” Proverbs 24:3-4
Cindy Arp, teacher/librarian, retired from Knox County Schools. She and husband Dan live in Heiskell.