New Year in the Old House

ragged house pic

On Christmas  day while we cooked our ham, a frozen copper water pipe burst beneath our washroom. My son, Ben, scrambled underneath the house to do a temporary fix. (I stayed topside to drop tools and parts to him through a hole in the floor.) Then, before we hung up our overalls, my tired old furnace decided to wheeze cold air. I stoked up the wood stove and plugged in electric heaters to get us through the festive day.

Another memorable Christmas … 

I’ve lived in literally dozens of houses in my 58-years: A couple were tiny tear-drop trailers. One house was located in a gated community. As a child, my family lived in Paradise (originally called Pair-of-Dice), then we abandoned California and moved to Oregon to gypsy between ranches with my alcoholic stepfather.

After I married, my bride and I flitted between trailer courts and cheap apartments. I worked at a rescue mission where we bunked upstairs above the residents, and later we upgraded to living in a housing tract. I had three children when we arrived in Alaska, and we wintered in a 20-foot travel trailer until buying a (pre-’64-earthquake) house in Chugiak—where we have lived for 25 years.

I’ve come to understand that a house is much more than paint, siding, and walls, or inlaid flooring and silent-flush commodes. A house should feel safe, with or without high-dollar appliances and light fixtures. No matter how messy or organized it is, a person’s house should be the place to nurture loved-ones and friends.

Some of the houses that I remember bring back a feeling of dread, others a happy sense of freedom and coming-of-age. What happened in those houses, and with whom, makes me sigh with a smile, or makes me feel sick inside.

I love my old Alaska house today. Nothing matches—siding, appliances, or roofing. The flooring is rough, the walls way past needing paint. I have started a dozen-and-one projects in the old house, each abandoned when money ran low or someone needed the space where I was working. I ran out of “round to-its” between my 8th and 12th trip to the midwifery, where I cherished the first squalls of newborn grandchildren. If I get one project done every year, wedged between family emergencies and birthday parties, I’m satisfied.

My wife and I stare at each other in a daze sometimes, while voices chatter in our overstuffed living room. Sons and daughters-in-law do the “cookhouse dance” in our little kitchen (it’s narrow, like an airliner’s galley). Our nicked-up counter tops accommodate cutting boards for salmon, bacon and eggs, caribou steaks, biscuit dough—and little bottoms of kids who sit to “help” Grandma wash dishes.

I hope to remodel my old house in 2014. But I’m also seasoned enough to know that my plans often change like the weather. What I will attempt is to control what happens inside. I’m more determined than ever to keep my house a home that everyone loves to remember.

4 thoughts on “New Year in the Old House

  1. The true Alaska family story. What is special about yours is….you have God in your home. And no matter what happens on what day, or what time of night disaster happens, God will see you through it, as He always has. Great writing!

  2. Rick, I have seen a few bio’s working for Moody Publishers but none as down to earth and “real” as yours. It’s great to see your passion for writing and your desire to serve the Lord.

    • Hey, Randy. Thanks for your kind words. Hope you’re doing well at Moody. I’ll be submitting some work to them in the future. They are the standard for Christian publishing houses. Oh, and I loved the pics of your ambidextrous grandboy, George!

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