How can I begin to explain the view from my kitchen window? I take in the stunning Minnesota sunsets and listen to the peaceful sound of pheasants crowing. I have yelled at my kids. I’ve opened it to capture the sweet smell of a spring rain. I’ve opened it in the middle of the winter when my house just smelled icky. It is my podium and my refuge; my anchor and my haven.
The view from my window has changed dramatically.
I was mowing the lawn on a Sunday evening and nearly done. In an unending pursuit of ultimate multi-tasking, I stopped long enough to change the dryer and throw in another load of laundry. As I turned off the ignition, climbed off the machine, and headed for the house, the engine backfired and a deep “HuhWhooomph” sound came from motor. The ominous sound was enough to cause me to glance back and see flames coming from under the hood.
For a moment, I believed that the flames would quickly extinguish themselves and all would be well. However, as the intensity of the fire only increased, I ran into the house, grabbed the fire extinguisher and my cell phone, and frantically called Sam. “The lawn mower is on fire!”
I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but I honestly think I heard the sound of his eyes rolling.
Unfortunately (well, maybe fortunately), operating a fire extinguisher was a new experience. The instructions were plain enough, but seemed to take hours to read and comprehend. I emptied the entire contents on the inferno but to no avail. The flames spread to the steering wheel and soon the seat caught fire. Large billows of black smoke rose through the trees.
Sam drove on the yard as I was trying to hook up the garden hose to the outside faucet. He calmly took the hose from my shaking hands and finished the task quickly. Retreating to the house, I watched from my kitchen window as he sprayed water on the now fully engulfed machine.
The charred carcass of the mower remained on the lawn for the following week, a constant reminder of the unfortunate event. I avoided making eye contact with the sorry mess and tried to focus instead on the larger view from my kitchen window. Mercifully, the eyesore was removed when they delivered the new mower.
A scorched circle in the grass remained visible until the grass finally began to fill in the area. My view from the window returned to normal and I recovered from the embarrassment and trauma of the whole event. The flowerpots I’d planted and arranged on the deck began to bloom and I found myself frequently just looking out the window to savor their beauty. They were nothing fancy, but I was proud of my efforts.
I thought everything looked as close to perfect as I could have wanted it.
While putting the finishing touches on our weekly family dinner, I watched from my window as Sam walked across the deck with my mom on his arm. He gestured and pointed and she listened and nodded. For a few months, we had been considering building an addition on the house that would include a suite for Mom. Having celebrated her ninetieth birthday in April, she has lived on the farm since Dad passed away in 1996. I can’t say for sure why the plan was set in motion, but the timing seemed right to at least broach the subject.
Mom walked into the kitchen with Sam and said, “I think it sounds like a good idea. But I can still go to my house sometimes if I want to, right?”
“I don’t see why not,” I replied.
“Am I going to have my own kitchen?”
“Er, I don’t think so. Here, have a glass of wine.”
I looked out the kitchen window as Zac, Amber, little Olivia, and Sam’s mom, Louise, arrived for dinner. Four generations gathered around my table. Life was changing. I felt blessed, honored, and scared.
For the next three weeks, Sam prepared the area for the addition. My kitchen became noticeably brighter as he cut down seven large trees. I washed load upon load of sweaty, sawdust soaked clothing. In early August, actual construction began with the arrival of a large assortment of large machinery that filled the front yard and spilled over to the adjoining driveway. The scene from my window changes daily depending on which piece of equipment obliterates the view.
As of this writing, there is one large hole in the basement wall, places for holes in the wall to happen, and the impending demolition of the entire north end of our house. Piles of lumber await assembly into walls. Floor plan? We don’t need no stinkin’ floor plan! It will all work out. Or so I’m told.
If all goes according to plan (that is, if we actually had a plan), Mom will move in by winter. Many details of this transition aren’t worked out perfectly, but that allows for adaptation and flexibility for everyone. I view it much the same as bringing home a new baby: if a parent knew what the future held, the joy and excitement of the moment would not be the same.
Every year on my birthday, my mom tells the story of bringing me home from the hospital on Christmas Eve. My dad decided to surprise her and update the bathroom plumbing in the old house while she was in the hospital. Imagine the mess she came home to with a new baby and four other children besides! But she never brings that part up when she tells the story; all she remembers is sitting in her warm living room and how happy she and Dad were that Christmas.
As I look out my window and see the many changes, I hope and pray that I can make her feel as loved and welcome as I feel every time she tells that story.