I walk down the driveway, through the open garage, and without hesitation, open the door. The house I’m walking into is a place I’ve never lived, but it feels like home. I never had a place for my toothbrush here, but I’ve celebrated Christmas dinner, birthdays, and funerals. As a kid, I watched cartoons here on Saturday mornings, often before most of the family was up. I ate healthy snacks and watched movies in the living room. I sledded down the hill in the front and back yard and spent more hours than I can count exploring the creek in the back. This house doesn’t belong to my family. It’s my childhood next-door neighbor’s house. And, though I haven’t lived next door in 30 years, as I walk in, it still reminds me of my childhood and makes me feel home.
I was there last week, helping to prepare the house for sale, helping my friend (that is more like a brother) and his mom as they prepare for another family to enjoy this home. Every room in that house has so many good memories, but it was also sad knowing this place, one of the last remaining pillars of my childhood, will be gone.
When my parents divorced, this home (and family) was a refuge for me. It was a rock that never changed, where there was always kindness, love, some discipline, and always healthy snacks. These people shaped me and, in many ways, gave me a vision of the family I would build one day. But more than all that, what I remember most is that they loved me as I was. I caused some trouble. More than once, I was a headache for them and made their youngest son cry. But, they never stopped opening their door to me. And, if their garage was open, I knew then (and I know now) I could walk right in, like I belonged there, because, in some ways, I did.
That door to the garage is the kind of door I want to have for my kids’ friends. A door that is unlocked and that they can come through without knocking and feel at home, feel loved, feel accepted. That’s how I want people to feel around us, like they are family. That’s the door I want to have.