I just spent a few days with my grandmother.
She lives in a small village, and when I say small I really mean small. About one hundred people live there, only ten of them are below fifty years old.
We used to live there for a year, a very challenging year I have to say. After two years in the African jungle we ended up in this small village with not much to do. The bus runs twice a day – to school in the morning and back in the afternoon. People go to church on Sundays and to the pub on weeknights, that’s it.
I have to be honest, I was quite happy when we moved to a bigger town after a year.
Once in a while, though, I return to visit my grandma and most of the time it’s rather dull. Still the same nothingness. You have to plan your trip carefully if you come by train because the bus doesn’t run very often.
It sometimes feels like traveling into the middle of nowhere.
Entering my grandma’s house is like stepping out of your normal busy life into a quiet zone. It’s like life’s busyness stops all at once, it can’t get through that old wooden door.
I had never been able to define what awaits you inside until now.
There’s a calmness and peace which seems boring on the surface; yet, only when you enter you realize how desperately your soul needs exactly that.
A kitchen with an old oven. The smell of freshly cut wood. A warmth that creates a homely atmosphere immediately.
A table in a sunlit corner of the room, surrounded by an old wooden bench and chairs. Lots of chairs to accommodate the many visitors coming by.
The constant smell of coffee and some cake, which Gran can pull out of the most unexpected corners.
An old wooden staircase whose boards creek unless you know where to step. It leads you to two rooms, both older than everyone in the family. It’s hard to find electric sockets, they just didn’t exist when these rooms were built.
The floor made of old beams shimmering so brightly from decades of cleaning, waxing and trodding on them.
A huge bed made of dark wood with thick down feathers and a large cupboard attached to it. Give me one person who wouldn’t want to jump from the cupboard right into the soft covers. It’s just too tempting and we’ve been scolded way too many times for giving in.
Another small steep staircase takes you to the attic, the best part of the entire house. For years and years it has been the storeroom for whoever doesn’t have any space in their own house.
The perfect treasure hideout for kids. Old cupboards, chairs, clothes, lamps. Each of them once belonged to uncles and aunts, great cousins and grandfathers. Each of them has a story to tell. Even though I’m all grown up now I still enjoy going up there, taking a trip down memory lane. Looking at the different pieces of furniture or clothing and imagining the story behind them. These dust-covered objects are way more than objects – they are a conduit into sweet memories of the past.
And then there’s grandma, of course.
A small roundish lady with a bun and a colorful apron. Her long black hair is spotted with gray and white streaks; her hands and face are lined with wrinkles.
She looks beautiful.
Beautifully, gracefully old. Immensely alive.
Her eyes are still full of fire and energy, and when she laughs you can see the joy in them.
She used to be a wild girl.
As the second youngest of four children she explored life and rebelled against boundaries to discover more about the world. She married a boy from the next village, she says it was love at first sight. She worked hard, running a farm, cooking for fifteen people every day, and raising seven children. She became a widow far too early at age fifty-four.
Her hands testify to the many hours of work and worry she has gone through.
She has been the good soul of the house ever since.
Despite a lot of hardships she persevered. “I simply had no other choice”, is what she often says when you ask her how she managed all the challenges life threw at her.
“And we survived.”
The kitchen is where most of her life takes place.
You can find her there early in the morning when she has her first cup of coffee before she heads out to feed her cats and chicken.
You always know when she’s busy because you can hear her soft humming – always the same three notes – in the whole house.
You will always find her working in the house or in her beautiful garden, except for an hour in the afternoon when she takes a nap in the giant armchair in the living room.
Life here is quiet. Life here is slow.
There’s a crazy loud world out there – but here there’s peace and quiet.
There are busy agendas and schedules out there – but here there’s only the right now. The work in front of you.
Like cracking walnuts for two hours and peeling the best parts out of the hard shell.
Like baking cake and learning the secrets from the best.
Like sitting down over a delicious meal and sharing what life has been like since we last saw each other.
Like listening to stories of the past and marveling at God’s grace and protection.
Life is good because I finally slow down enough to discover its little blessings in the mundane.
Grandma’s house is always open. There is a bell, but no one ever rings it. You just turn the key and enter.
This house has already seen people from all kinds of countries, continents, and lifestyles. Visitors from overseas and next door. Gran doesn’t speak any English and we have had quite a few interesting ‘lost in translation’ encounters.
Gran has never traveled much except Norway and Israel, but through the many visitors she has seen the world.
Grandma’s house is quite special.
It’s a place where you’ll always find a spare bed to rest your heavy legs.
A place where there’s always food on the table. “And if there’s not we’ll make some”, as my uncle says.
A place where someone will wait with open arms and an open ear to listen.
A place where you’ll meet a messy bunch of people I call my family.
A place you’ll never leave empty-handed, I promise.
You’ll literally have your bags packed with goods Grandma has for you. Instead of money she gives you eggs from her chicken, homemade ham and bread, even entire meals.
“It’s nothing”, she says.
But it is something.
You take a lot more away than a bag of goods. Wherever you go from here, you’ll carry stories with you.
Stories of the past that shape the present and inspire the future.
The big picture that binds us all together.
You treasure the memories for times to come.
Memories of quiet afternoons and walks around the lake in the sun.
The taste of home-cooked meals and sweet fellowship around the table.
The experience that despite all differences and distances family bonds are there to connect us all.
Grandma’s house, tucked away in this small village in the middle of nowhere, is a lot more than an old farmhouse.
It’s a piece of home.
And it will stay home as long as we decide to return and make it home.