The House at 8 Franklin Street

It is said that a house is just a house, that it is a family that makes it a home.  And I think that is mostly true.  But I have to wonder. download Because a lot of living goes on in a house over the years.  And that couldn’t be more true for this house, the house at 8 Franklin Street.

This quaint 2 family home is located on a quiet little street in a Boston suburb.   All the homes on Franklin Street are neat and tidy, with manicured lawns but nothing pretentious about any of them.  What stands out is the community on that little street.  And I do mean little.  There are no more than a dozen homes adorning both sides of the street.  But there are dozens of lives intertwined and connected through the years that span the lifetimes of those that lived and still do live there.

In 1957 a young mother and father brought their baby son to their new home at 8 Franklin St.  It was November, and their baby was not quite a year old.  They occupied the first floor while the new father’s sister and her family of 4 moved upstairs.  Their young sons were 10 and 7 and more than able to climb the stairs to the second floor.  The 2 families purchased the home together, and embarked on a lifetime together.  As a condition of the purchase, the bank required the house to have a “fresh coat of paint” applied to the exterior.  Being November, and a 2 story home, all the new mother’s brothers came to help.  And so started the legacy of this home, and this neighborhood.

The baby boy soon had a baby brother, and the 2 boys downstairs grew up in the shadow of the 2 boys upstairs.  The families spent countless hours together in the yard, building a 2 story deck and investing in one another.  Summer evenings were spent barbecuing and socializing, enjoying their yard and their neighbors.  Both families were headed by hard-working men; one a plumber, the other a factory worker.

Over the years the neighbors became acquainted with one another.  They all looked out for each other’s children, borrowed or loaned the cup of sugar on more than one occasion.  If any neighbor was in need of anything, there was another quick to help from shoveling snow in the winter to cutting grass in the summer.    Waves hello or welcome back over fences were common.   There didn’t need to be signs posted on street poles; neighborhood watch was well under way on Franklin Street.

The sons all grew to be both high school and college graduates.  One of the older boys headed off to Viet-Nam and became the hero to the two younger boys downstairs.  All 4 boys grew into professional men with a solid understanding of family and what it means.  In turn, each of the 4 boys brought their wives and children to see their childhood home, and visit their grand parents.  The last to bring home a wife was that nearly one year old baby that moved in way back in 1957.  He joyfully brought his children, his parents only grandchildren, to visit and play.

37 years after the 2 families moved into the house,  the family upstairs lost their father.  The “boys” were now men and living their own lives.  But the emptiness was profound.  The wife upstairs continued on, sharing birthday celebrations with her downstairs family for the next 20 years.  And then quietly she passed on too.

So now the house at 8 Franklin Street will belong to someone else.  Papers will be passed tomorrow to finalize the sale.  The couple from down stairs, now in their 80s find themselves in unfamiliar territory.  They are moving.  Moving from the home where they raised their sons, made so many friends, and felt safe.  This was home for them.  A place to go that is familiar and comfortable.

So many memories are sewn into the walls of that house that it can’t help but be a home.  Scratches on the wall where the family dog tried to get someone’s attention.  Tools and parts carefully sorted and stored in the basement.  The envelopes stuffed with pictures of little boys running around, revealing the changing face of the walls.  But the most poignant are the neighbors who have come to help pack, dump and move.  The children who grew up in the neighborhood and now reside in their parents homes on Franklin Street came to console and comfort the aged couple now having to uproot their whole lives and move.

I think, from what I’ve seen, that a house can be a home, but it takes a family to love it like a member for it to become the only home for some who lived in it.

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On Hunting

Recently we learned that our friend and pastor would be retiring and moving out of state.  Aside from being sorry he is leaving, it means our church will be closing.  So we are on a journey to find a new church home.

But not right away.  We have no immediate plans for us as a family to try out new churches week after week, but I do plan on taking each of my kids to a new place once or twice during the summer.  There are so many changes happening for them this summer that I think it’s necessary for us to at least expose them to the process once or twice.

So today, Mary and I visited the first one.

I was hoping that we would walk in and feel welcomed, feel connected to the congregation as a family of believers and leave feeling somewhat at peace.  My experience was much different from my expectations.

First, I have to say I am not good at greeting new people who have come over the years to visit my current church.  I stand off.  I don’t know why, but I do.  But that’s not to say that I don’t want to be greeted when I visit a new church!

Mary and I arrived 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled start time.  We made our way to the door where a woman was standing, presumably a greeter, holding the door.  As we approached, I said good morning to her.  She smiled warmly and said she was trying to keep the cool air inside the building.  That was it.  No hello, no good morning, no welcome, no offer of directions as to where to go once we entered.  Nothing.  I found it odd, but let it go.  We went up the stairwell (I can’t remember if I saw a sign or not indicating that was where the sanctuary was) and into a large area where there was a flat screen monitor showing the set for the worship band and several long rows of seats.  I wasn’t sure if this was the sanctuary or not, but there were quite a few people mingling around the area, none of them sitting, chatting with each other.  Mary hurried me along, pointing to the sanctuary.  As I got to the doorway, there was a gentleman standing there holding bulletins.   There was another couple speaking to him so I politely waited my turn.  I overheard them say to the man with the bulletins that so and so had “put him to work” and that so in so was this woman’s husband (the woman in front of me.)  Clearly these were congregants of the church and not visitors or newcomers.  They all pleasantly ignored me until I reached my hand in to indicated I would like to have a bulletin.  He graciously handed one to me but never broke off his conversation with the other couple.

We entered the sanctuary and found ourselves 2 seats, not in the back row but behind the middle.  We moved in one or two seats so as not to be sitting right at the end of the row.  A few minutes later a gentleman approached, leaned over and said hello.  I responded with a smile and a good morning, expecting him to inquire if we were visitors, introduce himself and make us feel welcome.  Instead, he told us that they often run short of seats and asked if we would kindly move all the way in not leaving an empty seat.  There was a woman sitting at the opposite end of the row, and he gestured for us to move.  I said, “Oh, ok” and proceeded to move.  After a couple of minutes the woman who had been sitting at the end got up and relocated to a seat in the back row.  That felt strange and uncomfortable.  The traditional “morning greeting” was a very reserved handshake and if lucky, a muted “good morning”.

The worship time was nice; modern worship music done with passion and skill.  The message was ok but nothing terribly thought provoking.  I don’t put too much weight on that, since the weekly message is sometimes more personal than others.  This message, while organized and well spoken, didn’t really hit me.

The service concluded with a very nice song, and a dismissal.  And that was it.  Everyone got up and left.  Some turned to chat with friends while others left but again, not a word spoken to me or Mary.

All in all I would have to rate this a 4 out of 10.  I left feeling as much a stranger as the way I entered.  Not a very positive experience…this time.  We’ll try it again another time and see if it’s any different when we are there as a family of 4.  That would be interesting!

Boston

I am humbled to think that I came close to bringing my children to Boston yesterday for the marathon.  A friend of ours is a marathoner.  She was there, running in it.
media-boston-marathon-blastA year or so ago, we had briefly discussed her taking Mary to the marathon this year.  Then Sunday evening I thought it would be fun if I took the kids and
 headed up to Boston to watch.  But I didn’t do it.  We had other stuff to do and the thought of going lost it’s prominence in my mind.  As far as we know, our friend is safe, and her family are safe.  But my children….knowing what happened…are shaken.  Not because they know of my plans (because I hadn’t told them until after this happened) but because road races are becoming part of our life.  Mary is afraid to run.  Evan is worried because he is Evan and he worries.  The impact of those bombs in Boston is far reaching, and we are just one of the many families impacted by this event.  We will pray, as a family, for the victims, the first-responders, and the onlookers who saw but didn’t want to see.

 

It’s an unfair world: A Rant

I don’t understand a lot of things.  I’m not stupid but there are just some things in this world that I don’t understand.  Like why Girl Scout cookies are so addicting. Or why abused and neglected children have fewer rights than the adults who abused or neglected them.

 And that’s where I find myself right now;  Scratching my head at a legal system that says we, as adoptive parents, have to compromise what we believe to be in the best welfare of our child to appease the whims of a birth parent who lost their child because they cared more about themselves than the child.
gavel

I simply do not understand a legal system that says, in essence, we don’t really care what is in the best interest of the child (because we don’t even KNOW the child so how can we know what is in his/her best interest) we only care about feeling sorry for the addicted birth parents who, (sniff, sniff) lost their child.

Yes, this is a rant.  I am angry and I admit it.  But we will proceed with what the court says because we have to.  I pray that all of this will, one day, reveal itself to be in the best interest of the child because right now I’m not seeing it.

 

Anatomy of an Abortion: Revised

I wrote this a couple of years ago.  During that time, I was really struggling with all this and couldn’t make it personal.  Since then, I’ve come to realize God’s grace and mercy and felt His forgiveness in my life.  I also know now that the weight of the decision that rested squarely on my shoulders that day does not need to remain only on me; there were other people in my life at that time who contributed to the decision and I have, whether they know it or not, forgiven each and every one of them.

And so today, as 500,000 people march on Washington DC in protest of legalized abortion, I lend my small voice, my small story, to those who would read.

She I walked, slowly, up the stairs. Reaching for the glass door, she I was unsure what to expect. Instantly she I thought of the series of events that lead to this moment; shame and fear flooded over her me.  One small part of her me wanted to run, run from the door, from him, from them, from the whole situation. But she I didn’t. The part of her me that wanted to run was overpowered by her my pride. She I couldn’t do what she I wanted to now no matter what. It would mean she I wasn’t strong. It would mean admitting that she I wasn’t capable of making her my own decisions only reinforcing that THIS decision was right because it was theirs, that they were right. Going on her my own allowed her me to maintain some level of control in an otherwise out of control situation. It made them think that she I agreed with them, and it made her me feel like she I was making the decision. She I continued to wrestle with the decision as she I walked through the door and into the cold empty lobby.

She I thought she I would see a medical office, with office staff and other familiar sights. She I thought she I would see a waiting room, complete with magazines and tables. Instead, it was more like a corporate office lobby. It seemed cold, professional. The thoughts of running crept in again, but once again pride over took them.

As she I waited for her my “interview”, she I again thought of the circumstances that brought her me to this point. Why, she I wondered, had she I violated her                                                                       my own moral code? Why had she I defied her my parents, her my mother? Why had she I wanted to wander from the safety and security of childhood? And why can’t she I go back? Why does it have to be this way? She I wanted to turn back the hands of time and change the decisions that were made, to make better ones…different ones. She I looked down at her my slightly swollen belly, and quickly diverted her my own attention. She I couldn’t, wouldn’t, allow her myself to go there. She I couldn’t think about it.

A moment later, they called her my name.  Alone,  She I followed through the wooden door. A few hours later, she I emerged, tearfully, painfully, empty.

Election Day 2012

There is a lot of chatter about “Women’s Health” in this current election.  Not that it surprises me, though.  My 6th grade daughter came home last week and told me that Mitt Romney is against women.  When I asked her what she meant by that, she told me that her friends at school were saying it.  So I had a chance to explain.

“You see, the issue of women’s health is related to the issue of abortion.  Since Mitt Romney is against abortion, the democrats are saying he is against women’s health.”  She looked at me, still puzzled. I continued, “We’ve talked about Planned Parenthood before, right?  Well, Planned Parenthood does most of the abortions in the United States.  They also provide a small level of health care for women who need it.  They take the place of going to a regular doctor for the special care women need because in some cases they don’t have insurance or can’t afford to go to the regular doctor.”

“Well, that’s good, right?” she asked.

“Yes, that is good, but there is a big problem with it.  Because they provide that care, they say they are a women’s health care provider and that abortions are only a small part of their business.  But they are not being honest.  They earn the most money from providing abortions.  That is not women’s health care.”

So we continued our conversation about what  propaganda is.  She was amazed to find out that the “argument” is skewed, and that information is not quite as true as it seems on the surface.

The truth is, Mitt Romney is not against women, he’s against abortion.  Mitt Romney doesn’t want women to suffer, and that’s what abortion does to women.  Abortion is not a health care issue, rather it’s a moral issue.  A pregnancy is not a clump of tissue…it’s a collection of cells that is life.  Life that is worth something.

So, there are many arguments around this issue.  But I have just one thing to say.  God creates life.  If you want to be pro-choice, then choose not to have sex until you are ready to parent the child that may result from it.  That’s a pro-choice position that I can agree with.  Because abortion is NOT safe, it is NOT without harm to the mother, and it is NOT what God would have you “choose”.  And if you don’t believe in God, that’s ok, but don’t make me, a taxpayer, pay for your counseling and therapy because you can’t afford proper health care.  And I know what I’m talking about…I’ve been there.