We moved to the brown house a few months after I turned one.
For my second Birthday, my mom set a big tall candle in the middle of the dining room table and let me blow it out as soon as it had burned from the “1” to the “2.” For the next five Birthdays, I would sit at the same table with the same candle.
That house holds some of my strongest and happiest memories from childhood. A good portion of the stories I have written about are from this time, including the year I wouldn’t come out of my room on Christmas morning because I was convinced Santa had brought me coal.
In my mind’s eye, I can see every corner of it.
The swing that was bolted underneath the second-story deck, where I would pump until my feet touched the underside.
Our dog Sparky, who I may or may not have blamed for pushing my sister down the stairs one time.
The day my dad brought home a wrapped box, and when I opened it I read “T-Ball” but didn’t know what it meant. He told me we would play with it together after supper, which was all the information I needed to love it.
My grandmother taught me how to swim a few miles from the brown house.
I can still feel the pull my mom’s hands, tugging my wet boots off after hours in the snow.
It was exactly what childhood should be, and albums of photographs have preserved the days of the brown house.
Where I welcomed a baby sister into the world.
And played on a soccer team called the “Brown Bombers” that never won a game.
I listened to records and did gymnastics waiting for my dad to come home from a business trip. After awhile I stopped dancing and stared into the dark night, willing his car to pull in the long driveway so I could stand on his feet and dance with him.
I had my first crush there, and subsequently my first heartbreak.
Once I stuck my head through the slats on our porch, only to realize that my ears prevented me from pulling it back through. It wasn’t nearly as alarming as it was comical, and truth be told I don’t remember how we ever did get me out of there.
There was always snow in winter, bright sky in summer.
It was idyllic, really.
I would hasten to say I have exhausted Todd with my stories over the years
Unfortunately, it’s also the house that reminds me of the way I was afraid to sleep. I can remember sitting up in bed, staring straight ahead and waiting to see my parents walk to their room.
One night I thought there were snakes in my bed so I screamed until my mom came. They were actually not snakes, but rather the tails of the mickey mouse images on my bedsheets. We decided Holly Hobbie was a better option after that.
I can smell the humidifier, puffing and piping steam while my sister cried a few doors down.
I got my first scar at the brown house. My mother was sitting behind me, blowdrying my hair, and I swung my legs and lost my balance. I landed on my chin and split it open. I still remember the man at the hospital telling me it wasn’t exactly stitches, but something about a butterfly instead, which sounded better than bleeding.
One of the hardest days of my childhood was the first day of school.
I vividly remember being concerned that my hair wasn’t quite long enough to be braided the way I wanted. I watched my mother make me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and as her hands moved from one side to the other and I stared at the back of her head, wishing she would let me stay with her instead.
I didn’t smile for a single picture, because I was petrified. I gripped the handle of my lunchbox and pleaded with my eyes.
In light of everything that has happened in the past several days, this particular photograph has taken on new meaning.
Beautiful, precious, and full of a lifetime of days I hadn’t seen yet.
I was six- a Kindergartner.
At Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.
I look at myself, standing in a kitchen where another child likely stood last week, and the weight of it all overwhelms me.
We sat as a family today and we each prayed for everyone involved. We begged God to be present with the families affected, and to work in supernatural ways to bring healing.
It’s familiar to me, this town.
It’s as much a part of me as any other place I’ve been.
But this grief, this upside-down, twisted inside-out devastation that is wreaking havoc on streets I used to run…it’s more than I can bear.
I cry as they show images of women, panicked and running with their children. I fold over myself as the first images are released and I am face to face children who are Kate’s age.
I’ve tried to write this post over and over, and I just can’t get through it. I am so terribly broken for all of those who have been affected, and I fear my pen can never reach the depth of these emotions. There are beautiful and right things to say about our hope as Christians, but some days it’s a fight to feel the peace we profess.
I await the day when it will be made right, and in the meantime, I will fix my eyes on Jesus. I will pray for these families by name, and will never forget the tiny faces that flash on the nightly news…
Lord, we don’t understand. We are trusting in Your goodness, leaning hard into you instead of what’s all around us.
Please, Jesus…have mercy. We are broken and devastated over a loss like this…we need you, Father.