Just like the rest of the world, I remember going to grandma’s house when I was younger. We’d go and eat all her treats, she’d cook us bacon and then fry eggs in the leftover bacon grease, she’d let us run downstairs and spend hours on end exploring the amazing and completely unfathomable amount of weird things, objects, boxes, toys, tools, and random stuff downstairs, only then to run rampant in her trailer parked outside. There were so many things to do – and so little time. I would look at or play with something for 13 seconds, get bored and then move on to the next thing, and on an on and on. We’d eventually come back upstairs and avoid getting wrapped up too much in ‘old person stuff’ like letters, books, looking at her old and weird furniture, antique pictures, old stories, and the creepy dolls that sat on their little custom made chairs on the shelf next to the TV that we tried to ignore while we were watching cartoons.
At times, especially during the ‘old person stuff’ (times) when the TV wasn’t on, and I wasn’t running free in the basement exploring, it had the tendency to become a bit awkward – or even totally weird, and maybe even smelled funny. This might have been because grandma was a lot older than me and she just didn’t understand what a 9-year old wanted all the time, or it could have been the opposite, that I didn’t know everything that grandma had to offer a 9-year old, and was therefore unprepared to really get the most out of that precious time.
Think of your grandparents’ house, it has a unique smell, a unique feel, and a unique presence which all scream ‘grandma’. We all know what it is, and it is different for every home, but they all have that ‘feel’ and can still recognize it instantly. I may be alone in the fact that there is some awkwardness there, but the fact of the matter is – that awkwardness might be due to the infrequent visits that we’d made over the years growing up. My grandparents lived a fair distance away and short visits every few months were just enough to rekindle the excitement of her basement and her treats, but they weren’t enough to last past the few hours that we would spend there during that time. Soon enough, I was bored and found myself looking forward to returning to my own home where I felt more comfortable.
If I am being honest – which I am – going to grandma’s house when I was younger was all about me. I looked at it as an event to get what I wanted out of it, which was treats, bacon, and some good times in the basement or trailer. Once I’d had my fill, I was ready to go. I was young, and I think that is the normal purpose for children at grandma’s house. I knew then, and I know now, that grandma loved having us there. She went out of her way to make us feel welcome, loved, and taken care of. I also know inside her heart of hearts that she wished we had come more often, and that she wished we had spent some more time doing ‘old person stuff’ because that’s where she really saw the magic, even if we didn’t.
Now, as I am older, I understand that I missed a lot of opportunities. If I had really wanted to get to know grandma (instead of visiting her for my own selfish reasons), to understand who she really was – I needed to spend time with her, and the best way to do that was to go to her house just to see her (and not the bacon). If I never visit her, and never really get to know her and spend time with her – especially doing some ‘old person stuff’, it may feel awkward, a bit unknown or even weird to me, and I might find myself looking forward to going back to my own home where I feel more comfortable.
As we spend more and more time there – and as we grow up a little – we become familiar with her house, then we realize by asking a couple of questions, we can learn that the weird cabinet in the corner with the creepy dolls on it isn’t really that weird – because it has an amazing story behind it. Grandma can tell you who built it, why they built it, where they got the wood, why he made the dolls, and that it was a gift made out of love, and we suddenly realize that it’s the most amazing cabinet that has ever been built, and we were so foolish to not see it previously. We realize how much that cabinet means to grandma, and amazingly, it now means something to us. Slowly our eyes begin to open, and we realize that everything in grandma’s house tells a very real story of grandma – and not only grandma, but grandpa too. The stains in the garage, the rocking chair on the porch, the squeaky screen door, the sloping hill in the backyard, the paisley couches, various letters that always seem to be on counter from friends and family, and even the dishes in the sink that are full of bacon grease and egg yolks, we may even learn why they always have bacon when we come. Everything in the house helps me to learn about who they were, who they have become, what they’ve been through together, how they got there, about their family, their love, what they’ve done for their children, how they spend their time, and at the end of the day what is important to them. Now, that awkward and sort of stinky smell becomes sweet and inviting. I can start to feel grandma’s house.
And it doesn’t stop there – soon enough we realize that the whole neighborhood and town start to belong to grandma and somehow always did and still do remind us of her and the time we spent at her house. We recognize landmarks, streets, and trees only because they are close to grandma’s house and they let us know that we are ‘almost there’ – and only later do we understand that there is no other reason in the world that these particular items would be even remotely recognizable, unless they remind us and point us to our destination – grandma’s house. Then, if we listen, she can tell us about the neighborhood, the town, the trees, the roads, and somehow knows all the answers to all the questions about her house and her history, we just have to ask the questions. Then, the mere mention of the town evokes memories of grandma’s house.
This same story is true about the Lord’s house. If we go there when we are unprepared, or if we go there infrequently we may go only with the purpose of getting something for ourselves or to fill our own needs and meet our own goals. We may go looking for the treats, the bacon, the trailer, or the organ, and miss (or even avoid) the ‘old person stuff’ that makes us feel a bit awkward because we don’t understand it or haven’t had it explained to us yet. But, if we have the intent and ask the right questions; to ask the Lord to explain his story to us, (and this can happen as we spend more time there with the only intention of getting to know Him), we can learn about the weird furniture, the strange smells, the old newspapers, and realize that they aren’t strange at all, in fact, they are the most beautiful things that have ever been crafted, and somehow they seem to be alive. We learn about the dolls, the antique photos, the letters that have been and are still being written, we learn about the struggles, the trials, and the absolutely amazing story that is the Lord’s family and we can begin to understand who He has been, who He is, and who He will be.
And it won’t stop there. As soon as we’ve tasted the magic of the ‘old person stuff’ that is in the Lord’s house – we will develop a sense of awe and reverence for it, that will make the bacon and the organ and the trailer seem insignificant. We can remember the happiness they gave us, but we will also be so very thankful for the day that we got tired of the organ and came upstairs just to sit with grandma on the couch, because she was able to give us true joy. Then, we can come to grandma’s house to see grandma, and to feel of her love, and to share our love with her. Then, we can begin to understand the power of influence – and we want to spend more and more time with just her, and let her love wash over us because it is real, and because it is constant, and because it is warm and because it is love – because that is what home feels like.
I wish I could really go to my grandma’s house again – but I take comfort in knowing that I can go to the Lord’s house through his amazing spirit I can feel her, and that someday I will see her and hug her and she will understand that I was only 9 and I didn’t quite understand what I was missing.
“Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways…”(Isaiah 2:3, Micah 4:2, 2 Ne. 12:3)