Home is where the broken things are

Mary Liz - Frederick, Maryland
Entered on March 15, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family, place
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Home is where the broken things are

by Mary Liz Austin

This has been and unusually troubling year. So I was surprised to find myself feeling hopeful and magically uplifted as I pulled into my parents’ driveway on Thanksgiving Day. I should have felt sad. It had only been a few months since my brother John died. John was a hearty soul and no one could have imagined the possibility of his sudden death, especially after my brother Tom had passed away just eight years before. Still I knew that I was going to feel better inside once I got inside that house.

Our family gathers in a kind of haphazard way. I am one of eight children. We were raised with modest means in a small rancher full of things that broke often. Some of them got fixed. Some just stayed broken. I never knew that such a simple, unintended lesson would come to have so much meaning. No one in my family comes home expecting the house to be fixed. We come home because we know that amidst the broken things we are repeatedly made whole. We come home because we know that we will only heal our broken moments by being together.

Dinner at my sister Kate’s house made the return to wholeness especially real. As always, we were only half sure who was bringing what. Just cooking the corn was an ordeal. After discovering that my husband was icing his leg with the bag of corn, I had to be given several minutes of instruction about Kate’s quirky microwave in order to get it out on the table. Then I became aware that, without fuss, my bereaved mother had found the strength to make John’s favorite coleslaw and had silently placed it amidst the other foods. When the buffet table was set and we spoke our tender thanksgivings, everything that mattered was present.

I know that my family is not the only family spending this holiday with heavy hearts. Many of us are suffering from economic or personal troubles and we are sad and afraid. What a lesson to have grown up amongst all the broken things with little to rely on but the promise of each other. What a gift to know that someone will find it funny that the screen door still squeaks and sometimes falls off. What a comfort to know that someone will cry over the same scene from a family video. And then the video will cut out because “so and so” forgot to load enough film. What my family knows is that things break and that heartbreak visits often. This is just the way it is and has always been. And yet we will always have each other.

I am planning to have Thanksgiving at my house next year so our family can run the Way Station Turkey Trot 5K in honor of Tom and John. I’ve always been reluctant to host large gatherings at my house because my house is small and only recently did we buy a TV that did not have to be turned on with a pencil. But this Thanksgiving it occurred to me that my house is the perfect home for hosting my family. Perhaps my kids will learn the same lesson that I finally learned, that home is where the broken things are.