For several years of my childhood, my family lived in a small abode in the Greenlake neighborhood of Seattle. We fondly called it our “little yellow house.” I loved that house for so many reasons. It had personality, character, and, as my dad called them- “hidey-holes” (special, secret places to hang out and explore). My parents’ bedroom was in the attic; I would sneak up there during the day to play with my dolls and My Little Pony horses because the room had so many cool nooks and crannies. There’s something about old houses with creaky hardwood floors that court the imagination.
Today, I drove by that house. Every once in a while, when I’m feeling nostalgic, I make a drive-by just to revisit favorite memories: friends daring each other to run through neighbors’ backyards and jump their fences without getting caught…my mom making Thanksgiving pumpkin pie in our tiny, crackerbox kitchen…birthday BBQ parties (with homemade chocolate cake!) in the backyard…walking to Greenlake to splash around in the kiddie pool (even though I was too old for that)…
As always happens when I pass our old home, I hear Crosby, Stills and Nash serenading it: Our house…is a very, very, very fine house…And a fine little yellow house it is.
I got to thinking about what makes a house special…what truly makes a home a home. The Dutch word gezellig came to mind. My mom is Dutch, and she taught us, through example, the meaning of this wonderful word. The closest translation in English is cozy. But that doesn’t quite do it justice.
My mom made our home gezellig in so many ways: homemade spaghetti and other favorites served after baseball/volleyball/soccer/basketball/softball/dance practice…daily after-school tea and cookies…warm hugs that always reached your heart…fires in the fireplace…candles lit on grey Seattle winter days…genuine words of encouragement when our self-esteem took a beating…She taught us to bake. She helped us with homework. She watched Disney Channel shows with us (Avonlea, anyone?). She supported and encouraged our opinions and freedom. AND, she worked as a nurse (a brilliant, well-loved one, I might add). I can’t think of a better role model for children, especially daughters.
Today, I thought about how much I want to give that to a family of my own. I want to envelope my kids in love and acceptance- and call them on their crap when needed. I want to cook, bake, explore, create, laugh, watch, and adventure with my family. I want to be an awesome wife and amazing mom. I want to create a home that’s gezellig. I can’t think of a greater gift to give my peeps.
Theoretically, I could have all of this by now. But I don’t (heavy drinking tends to put your life on hold). And, Sarah Hepola’s words echo in my mind:
“One June morning, exactly two years ago, I woke up near dawn and understood that if I kept drinking, I would not get the things I wanted most. I knew that I could keep drinking for the rest of my life. And it’s not that I would die, exactly, it’s that I would die inside.”
I want to live. I want to live sober. And, I want to lead- and share- a life that’s…gezellig.
(Thank you for showing me the way, mom. I love you!)