|Our Walsh Street home.|
Our first day in the new house, the mail carrier "blessed" us with seven catalogs addressed to the former owners: Pottery Barn, Walpole Woodworkers, Restoration Hardware--more than I can recall. Abhorring junk mail, I dialed each toll-free number to request mailing list removal, an action I repeated daily. Even so, it took months to stanch the flow of advertisements.
When we moved back to my hometown of Grand Rapids, we initially lived in a house that had belonged to my parents. On a busy street, close to the road, it wasn't particularly suited to a family with a curious toddler unable to grasp the danger of fast-moving vehicles, so we asked my Realtor mother to watch for something in a quieter area. When she eventually called about a well-priced home in Alger Heights, she added a distressing disclaimer that since her clients come first, she planned to give first dibs to another couple. After much pleading, my mom relented and showed us the house. A principled real estate agent who does right by her customers, I only succeeded by reminding her that we were her clients, too, having told her ages ago we wanted a bargain in the pleasant city neighborhood I fondly remembered from my childhood.
|A snowy Walsh Street.|
On a snowy, snowy day we moved in. Judy brought us pumpkin bread, and others came to greet us. The elderly man across the street peered out his window at his new neighbors. When we finally met Walter, he proved a dear, caring man who was especially kind to our autistic son, and always eager to invite him in to share a Dutch windmill cookie and to pet Kitty.
|George, Irene, and Grandpa Joe|
He's all the world to me
He climbs upon my knee
To me he'll always be
That little boy of mine
that he really meant it, even though he sang it to the other neighborhood children, too.
We know numerous neighbors, and cherish their presence. Many of them save their boxes and packing peanuts for Laura's Last Ditch. Steve taps our maple tree each spring (another neighbor, Navin, even made a mini-documentary of the process). Two days ago, Steve brought us homemade maple syrup. He stops by regularly to share a cup of my husband's Romanian coffee, sometimes with another neighbor in tow. On Valentine's Day, we discovered heart-shaped cookies on our back porch, courtesy of Lena across the street. A few years ago, neighborhood musicians formed The Walsh Street Orchestra, meeting on the front lawn to serenade passersby.
|The Walsh Street Orchestra. We get together once a summer |
for a potluck, followed by music. Everyone's welcome to join
us for dinner and a concert.
When we came back to the house for inspections after our offer was accepted, the owner left for "retail therapy." The first time we heard the expression, my mom and I chuckled. The beautifully appointed home clearly showed she knew how to shop. The Realtor's description on the listing card promised "Pottery Barn-style decor" and, boy, did it deliver.
|Walter with our son, taken on Walter's|
Polaroid camera, around 2005.
And I hope others will make the same decision--to commit not to bail when things get a little crowded; to enjoy neighbor therapy before retail therapy; to resist mindless spending and compulsive upgrading so there's time and money to help those for whom a little starter house would be a miracle, caring neighbors a balm, a loving family a dream.
I have a good enough car, good enough clothes, good enough house, good enough family, and a good enough life. Others might find them lacking, but they're from a most unusual catalog, called Extravagant Blessings. And when you enter my Walsh Street home, I hope you can tell I shop there--not because of my style, but because of my thankfulness.
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”