My navigation skills hadn't kicked in yet on Saturday morning and as a result, we missed taking the correct turn which would lead us back onto the freeway across Kitchener-Waterloo and then up the 401 to our hotel in Cambridge. Instead, sister Brenda and I found ourselves on King St., heading towards Waterloo's downtown area. It wasn't a disaster - we could still take University Avenue, or Bridgeport Road north to 85, but another idea popped into my mind. We had just had breakfast with our brother Dave and his wife Heather at The Stone Crock in St. Jacob's and were feeling more than a little nostalgic after celebrating our Dad's birthday together the evening before.
"Want to go see 103 Alexandra?" I asked Bren. She asked if was very far, and when I said it would be only about 10 minutes, she was happy to agree.
Our grandparents had bought the house at 103 Alexandra Avenue in Waterloo in 1943 when our Mom was just 17, and they had lived there for all of our growing up years. It was full of happy memories for both of us. And a few not-so-happy, too. But that is the stuff that families are made of. There are always a few dark threads woven into the tapestry - it's the shadows that give the good stuff clarity and depth.
Brenda drove up and parked two houses down and across the street and started fishing for her camera. I got out and started to walk down the street. I wanted to see the old girl from every angle. She looked so much smaller! The big maple tree I loved to climb was still there. It looked smaller too. I couldn't believe how small. The garage looked exactly the same, though the door needed a coat of paint. My eyes took in a thousand details as my mind and heart were flooded with a sense of my roots and a thousand remembrances.
Someone stepped out of the house onto the big front porch where our family would gather every summer afternoon. I thought he might wonder why someone was staring at his house, especially with Brenda snapping pictures, so I called to him as I stepped across the street toward him.
"Excuse me," I said. "Our grandparents used to own this house and we're just taking a bit of a walk down memory lane." Brenda caught up to me and stood beside me as we talked. He asked me a few questions about my grandparents and about the house and before I knew it, we were being invited in to meet the current owner.
We could hardly contain our glee! What a blessing to step back into that house once again. So much of it looked exactly the same. There was fireplace where we used to hang our stockings when we stayed there at Christmas. And there was the banister I used to slide down, even though I was told a million times I shouldn't. There was the bedroom that was Uncle Lawrie's and the door that led up to attic. The doors, the trim, even the doorknobs. So much of the house was exactly the same.
We thanked our new friend Henning, and as we came down the stairs after having had a tour all the way up to the attic, he invited us to come and see the bar.
There at the back of the house, behind the kitchen where Grandma and Grandpa used to sleep, was a new addition. The focal point of the room (other than it was filled with people on this Saturday morning as it is every Saturday morning), was a fully stocked bar. Before we knew it, we were in the centre of the party. We were being offered something to drink, and pickled garlic, and bowls of steaming home-made soup. A plate of sliced bratwurst and cheese was pushed toward us and we were quickly introduced to every person in the room. What a welcome! Here we had shown up as strangers on a Saturday morning, and when we left not an hour later, we were on a first name basis with our hosts, and being invited back "anytime". And they really meant it!
Brenda and I were bowled over with the goodness of God and how he sets up scenes like this to bless us. As we waved to our new friends and drove away, we talked about what an over-the-top and way-beyond-belief blessing it was to be able to "come home" again to Grandma and Grandpa's house. It meant the world to us to be able see it from the inside one more time. And we talked about how the family of God should be just that hospitable as Henning and his friends. They made us feel beyond welcome - we felt like we "belonged".
As we drove back to the highway (no missed turns, this time), we talked about the people God sends our way. We want them to feel just like we were made to feel on Saturday morning at 103 Alexandra Avenue - only moreso, of course, because of Jesus - and how we need to adjust our lives, and even the setup of our homes to do just that.
Even so, let it be, Lord Jesus!