Monday, May 29, 2006

An Admirable Family

I mentioned before that we visited with my college roommate while on vacation last week. That fact really deserves greater acknowledgement. My friend lives on her own, but when we were there she stayed overnight at her parents' house, where we also stayed, because they have more room for overnight guests than she does. The family is admirable. I really enjoyed watching them and visiting with them.

I don't really know how to explain the appeal of their home. I would imagine that if you have ideas of a good home that are similiar to mine, you will get it, and if you don't, you'll probably think I am silly to blog about something so insignificant. They just have one of those homes that puts you instantly at ease. It wasn't just order and cleanliness, although those virtues were certainly present. It was a real sense of home and family, a genuine atmosphere of love, stability, and generosity. I'll try to give some examples of what I mean, although tangible things really cannot do justice.

Yanni, the mother, had flowers all over the house. She grew them all herself, and they were scattered about in vases, mugs, bowls and other dishes. They were beautiful. She made rhubarb-strawberry cobbler from rhubarb and strawberries that she grew. Her 3/4 acre yard is like a botanical garden right in the middle of dry, barren northern California. She said that when the family moved from Alaska twenty years ago, they had such fond memories of Alaska that she worked for years to cultivate some of the plants that they remember from there. The hallway wall is covered in family photos. The refrigerator has pictures of the multiple children that the family sponsors through a relief organization. The little neighbor boy comes over and picks his fill of strawberries. At 8:00 in the morning, while we were eating our breakfast of eggs (from the chickens in the backyard) and zucchini bread (from zucchini grown in Yanni's garden) and coffee, another neighbor from up the road called Yanni to ask if she would like to go for a walk a little later in the morning. The big yellow dog looks ferocious and is really just a gentle giant. He is so fond of his human companions that if they are in the back yard and forget to leave a door open for him to leave the house and join them, he will push the screen out of the kitchen window and jump out. They don't lock their doors. When we mentioned that we should go out and lock our car before going to bed, my friend laughed and said she leaves her keys in the car. When we first arrived, my friend's dad greeted us warmly, saying how good it was to see us again...although he had only met us once before. He barbecued up some hamburgers and hotdogs for us, then sat at the table and talked with us while we ate. He's one of those great conversationalists, the kind that you can talk to for twenty minutes and you suddenly realize that he knows a whole lot more about you than you know about him. He's a contractor of some sort, I think, and his wife is a nurse. They have five children. When they first moved into their house twenty years ago, it was 1100 sf. They have spent two decades renovating and adding onto it, making it more livable for the seven of them. Yanni mentioned that she would like to add on again, to make the actual living area bigger. With five kids, they naturally focused on adding bedrooms in their previous renovations. But now, with children-in-law and grandchildren just around the corner, she would like to have a larger general living area so they can all be in the same room for holidays and family gatherings. But, she said, how could she add on yet again when there are starving people in the world?

Their home is wonderful. There is nothing cheap about it. There is nothing extravagant about it. The family is warm and generous and they are just about the least pretentious people I've ever met. There is a feeling of sensible frugality and simple luxury in that house. I left with great admiration for the whole family.

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