The kitchen table. In my family, it was here that important discussions had their genesis. Opinions were readily expressed on religion, politics, family values, money matters, raising children, taking care of the elderly, education, social responsibility and death. Typically, the children listened, and the adults talked. That said, at a very young age I had a clear idea of the persuasions, perspectives and prejudices of those who sat around the kitchen table with their cups of strong, black coffee. Occasionally, discussions were heated, and tempers flared. For emphasis, there was an occasional smack of the hand on the table top. But, at the end of the day these same strongly opinionated kinfolk showed their unending love and respect for each other with hugs, kisses and goodbyes – until the next spirited visit took place.
About The House Guest, Tony Parsons writes: “A very well-written historical fiction novel. It was very easy for me to read/follow from start to finish with never a dull moment. There were lots of exciting scenarios, with several twists/turns and a great set of unique characters to keep track of. This would also make another great historical family fiction movie, or mini TV series. A very easy rating of 5 stars.”
REVIEW OF THE HOUSE GUEST
The House Guest by Deborah Norris is a relaxing novel with Maggie Davis as the protagonist; owner of a grand Victorian Manor turned to a bed and breakfast. Her daughter Jenna and her outspoken neighbour Lee are her two lifelines which keep her moving; along with a few newcomers who frequent this manor bringing with them tales of their own.
The quaint Tilden town, the conversations and discussions of the house guests around the kitchen table, and the screen door shutting at the back porch of Maggie’s home and the kitchen door swinging open; perfectly reflects old time grace. The story connects the readers to the importance of culture and to value family ties.
The author’s colorful writing style reflects actual events which occur in our lives someday or the other, engaging me till the end and I would highly recommend this book to all who enjoy nostalgia with a tint of humor and a bit of mystery as well. ~ Pervin Bharucha, Amazon Reviewer
“I’m like an old house, run-down and falling apart,” she said, smiling at me from across the table. We had a good laugh at her analogy of aging – she’s a young 88-year-old at heart, but the mind and body are not cooperating so well these days. She struggles with balance and failing eyesight. She loses her train of thought in mid-sentence, and often forgets the simple things. In spite of it all, she maintains a sweet, positive outlook that is nothing short of amazing. Oh, how I love my Mama!
Recently, our conversation took a turn for the serious and left me feeling like I needed to hold onto her a little tighter – for fear that she might leave me sooner than later. “This old house is going to be traded for a mansion in Heaven one of these days,” she said, matter-of-factly.
Today, my grip is firm and my reluctance to let her go is immense. I’ve bargained shamelessly with God, reminding him that I need her more than he does. At the end of the day, I know I’ll have to relinquish my hold and let her have her mansion. But, for now, I’ll cherish every moment that God will allow me to have on this side of Heaven. ~ Deborah L. Norris
The old house was nothing at all like what she had described to me through the years. From her vivid recollections, I saw in my mind a lovely, well-kept home with spacious rooms and beautiful furnishings. According to her, it was a glorious place that remained alive with the laughter of children and happy conversation around the kitchen table. Now I stood in the doorway of this dilapidated structure, and found it all but difficult to disguise my shock. She walked slowly into the rundown keeper of her childhood memories, and raised her head as if to draw in the yesteryear aroma of homemade bread cooling on the kitchen counter. She smiled with utter delight, her hands clasped tightly to her chest. It was in this moment I realized she had described precisely what she would always remember. ~ Deborah L. Norris
It was pretty much the same routine every Saturday morning, but, believe me, it never grew old. Really. The kitchen always smelled of waffles and warm maple syrup. Bacon sizzled in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. The wonderful aromas, along with gospel music from the record player drew us all to the table for breakfast and happy conversation. Sometimes my Grandpa would walk the ten blocks from his house to ours and join us. He loved bacon, and I loved to hear him pray.
Saturday morning household chores were a family affair and everyone was involved – even the dog. Princess was our miniature black and tan dachshund. She had learned very quickly that she could earn a special treat if she gathered up our slippers and delivered them to their respective closets.
Mom always made cleaning and organizing fun. She would get a piece of colored paper and list all of the chores to be tackled. Then, she would cut the paper into strips, fold them, and place them all in a round metal bowl. We would each take a folded piece with a corresponding task. Once the job was done, we’d take another strip, and so on until the bowl was empty. Before we knew it, the house was clean and tidy.
Then there was the yard work. Dad wasn’t so much about making the task fun as just getting the job done. I loved working alongside my Dad and being his helper. He mowed the grass and I raked the clippings. We were a team.
Once all the chores were completed, Mom and I would get dressed and walk to the corner to catch the bus to town. I had my allowance tucked away in my red purse – 50 cents went a long way, even with 10 cents set aside for church the following morning. A trip into town usually meant lunch at the JJ Newberry counter and then a little shopping in the store. Of course, it never failed that we would have our pictures taken in the little photo booth. I always got a small white sack filled with favorite candy. Something was inevitably put on layaway for the start of school in September or for Christmas. Mom usually made a few small purchases; embroidery thread, crochet needles, and handkerchiefs for Dad.
After a stroll down the streets of town to do a little window shopping, we happily carried our treasures back onto the bus and made our way home. It had been another wonderful Saturday, with memories made that would last a lifetime and beyond.
I took a walk through my neighborhood this afternoon and by my childhood home for what I thought would be a lighthearted trip down memory lane. I was heartbroken to see that a construction team was busy tearing it down and clearing the lot. My look of dismay didn’t go unnoticed and one of the workers asked if I was alright. Alright? Are you serious? You’re dismantling a part of my childhood. How can I be alright? I know that he couldn’t possibly understand what this house meant to me with all the precious memories still deep within its crumbling walls. I stood for a long while, watching and remembering.
I was nine-years-old when we moved to Boise, Idaho from Vallejo, California in the spring of 1960. The trailer we pulled was loaded to the hilt with furniture and other belongings. It was truly a sight to behold. The car was packed tightly with just enough room for me, Mom, Dad, a golden Labrador puppy and a yellow parakeet in a blue cage. The trek was long, and I wondered if we would ever make it to Boise. But, when we finally arrived I immediately fell in love with the quaint little house in the east end of town. It was only 650 square feet, but it seemed like a mansion to me. I had never seen so many trees in my life. Squirrels were everywhere.
After one week of getting settled in our new environment, I resumed the third grade at Roosevelt Elementary which was a mere two blocks from my house. Several days a week, I visited the Roosevelt Market that was situated directly across the street from the school grounds, leaning on the front counter and selecting my favorite penny candy.
Standing there gazing at the rubble, I couldn’t help but remember the many “pictures” of my mother in my mind: how anxious she was to hear about my day at school; her smile, her laugh; how enthusiastic she was to help me plan backyard carnivals for the neighborhood children; how willing she was to make pink-frosted cupcakes so that I could sell them and make extra spending money; how comforting it was to have her come into my room in the night when I was scared or sick. And then there were the strong and soothing memories of my Dad. I loved coming home from school and finding him in his upholstery shop – the old brown Zenith radio playing in the background, the steady hum of a sewing machine, the smell of wood varnish and paint thinner, and the delightful discovery of leftover scraps of fabric on the shop floor that were destined to become articles of clothing for my dolls. At the close of each evening, my last recollection before drifting off to sleep was hearing my Dad wind the old cuckoo clock and recheck the front door lock. My, how safe and secure I had felt in that little house.
There was so much happiness in this house; visits from family and friends, celebrations of birthdays and holidays, sleepovers with friends, and backyard picnics. It was also where I first experienced the death of someone dear to me. I loved my Grandpa Gunderson and my memories of him are rich; the way he wore his cap, his steady, fast-paced gait, his love of candy, the way he prayed before he ate, his dislike of cooked onions, and the long walk he would take to bring me a small brown paper sack filled with sweet treats. The real sweet treat was when he walked to the front steps of our little house and knocked on the door. I loved opening the door and seeing him standing there with a smile. I remember the morning that my bedroom door opened quietly, and Mom told me that Grandpa had passed away during the night. He was eighty-one. I was thirteen. I would miss him deeply.
Ah, memories. Sweet, precious memories. I guess I really haven’t given it much thought as to what it will be like to never see the little old house again. But, I do know that my memories are vivid, and I’m grateful to have had such a delightful place to make so many.
We sat in our comfy chairs and enjoyed a second cup of coffee together, my 86-year-old Mama and I. Without much notice, she looked over the rim of her cup, and stated with purpose, “Let’s take a little trip upstairs.” Her soft blue eyes twinkled at the thought of a trek to the second floor. I offered to bring a few photographs and select family keepsakes downstairs, hoping to ease what I knew would be a difficult climb for her to the upper level of my home. But, the attempt, albeit honorable on my part, failed to dissuade her this time. She insisted on making the laborious journey, taking her time with each step, fifteen in all. Finally reaching the upper story landing, we walked along the hallway where an impressive display of framed ancestry lines the walls. Unfortunately, most of these behind glass family members had passed away long before I was born. She talked as though she had visited with each of them the week before. Suddenly, strangers with stoic faces and vague histories came to life with her many vivid recollections. She spoke tenderly of her beloved Grandpa Winkle who had a very strict ritual that he adhered to each evening at bedtime. First, he would wind the old clock. Then, he went to bed – even if company was visiting – wearing long underwear, a shirt, and a tie. He grew cotton for many years and sold home grown vegetables from a horse drawn cart. A favorite past time of Grandpa Winkle was a hearty – if not sometimes rather heated – discussion of religion with his son-in-law. In later years, he traded his strong opinions for long rests on his front porch swing as he lovingly watched his grandchildren play underneath the persimmon trees.
An old photograph of her Grandma Winkle brought another flood of memories, as she fondly remembered her as a very giving person that always found great satisfaction in doing for others. She was a midwife and assisted with the delivery of many babies. Where there was a sick child, you would find her – comforting and attempting to make well the young ones in her care. Unfortunately, she was all but helpless when it came to aiding her own ill child – and at the age of six months, one of her twins passed away suddenly. She desperately grieved the loss of her baby, and was often times inconsolable. One night, the story is told of her waking to see the baby playing happily on her bed. She watched for quite some time, totally enamored by this child she recognized as her own. She would never be convinced otherwise – that God was keeping her baby safe and had graciously allowed her to see for herself that he was in good hands. Though she would be forever mindful of the death of her sweet baby boy, this heaven-sent experience would reside deep within her very soul and comfort her for the rest of her days. Grandchildren always knew that their Grandma Winkle would have something good to eat at her house – whether it was leftover bacon and eggs in the oven, or her specialty; white cake topped with applesauce and red heart candies. She raised her own turkeys, geese and chickens – and churned her own butter. It goes without saying that holiday dinners were a most joyous occasion. She could not read or write – although this did not prove to be a significant handicap. Grandma Winkle owned and operated a market for many years, and due to her inability to read, she devised a rather ingenious system for identifying items and their prices through drawings that she created.
We made our way into one of the guest bedrooms and I removed several handmade items from an old chest of drawers. Again, there was a heartwarming story from the past that accompanied each treasured keepsake. I watched as she ran her fingers along the delicate edges of a crocheted doily that was nearly 75- years-old. The sight of an old, well-worn table cloth that had once graced the little kitchen table in her and Dad’s first apartment brought a tear to her eye.
She journeyed bygone years with ease, like a familiar well-traveled path – and with a strange clarity that often eludes her when she tries to recall what she did earlier in the day. The places in her mind where she chose to stop and sit for awhile became vibrant stories that she articulated like a gifted orator. Suddenly, I saw her as an 86-year-old beautifully written novel, pages worn, but rich with prose. I felt so humbled to “read” with her.
At the end of it all, her expression was one of pure joy. “Well, that was delightful, now wasn’t it?” She clasped her hands together and smiled sweetly. “I feel like I’ve been on a nice trip.” Indeed she had. I had been privileged to accompany her. A long, beautiful trip through a colorful field of memories.
How we choose to live our lives is of utmost importance. Why? Because it determines the legacy we leave. Building a legacy that is worth leaving behind is made one choice at a time. To leave a legacy of excellence, you must strive to be your very best every day. As you make every effort to achieve excellence you will inspire this same excellence in others. Remember, you serve as a role model for your family, your friends and your colleagues. One person in pursuit of excellence raises the standards and behaviors of everyone around them. Your life, and how you live it, is your greatest legacy.