Do you know the story of The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton? It’s a book published in the forties with a sweet little house on the cover and a big contented sun on the back. It’s been a lifetime favorite of mine. (What more could a long-ago child want?)
The story begins like this:
Once upon a time there was a Little House way out in the country. She was a pretty Little House and she was strong and well built.
Her-story continues as the Little House watches the seasons pass from her hill in the country and is soon surrounded by a village, and then a town, and finally—by a city–where she is so crowded in by buildings that she can no longer see the sun or the moon.
The Little House becomes shabby and misses the apple trees and daisies that once grew around her. No one wants her anymore.
I pulled this thin paperback off my child’s crowded shelves with the others that he had grown too old to enjoy. But rather than pack The Little House with the rest, I placed her on my writing table, sensing that her story and mine were somehow aligned.
Once upon a time, I was a little girl, pretty and strong, living in the country—of childhood. There were daisies and apple trees and plenty of spaces to grow and imagine and thrive. But as the seasons passed, thoughts moved in and troubles and worries crowded out the moon and the sun –and soon, I grew shabby too.
So shabby perhaps that my own father decides to travel during the week that I have planned to visit my family at their seaside home.
I sit on the porch of my own Little House in the mountains and sob, wondering how I have become so unworthy. It’s true, that at 45, I am an old daughter, with chipped paint and crooked shutters, but so is my father, older and shabbier still.
My son finds me on the porch, and sits beside me in my grief, placing his hand on my shoulder.
After I finish sobbing, I tell him that he might be ready to have a girlfriend after all. (Just the day before, I read from a book on teens that young men aren’t comfortable enough with the intimacy required to be in a relationship. In less than 24 hours, he’s proven that wrong.)
At 14, this same son, leans over my bent neck at the dinner table and kisses me before heading to the sink with dishes. It’s an act of tenderness that ripples through my heart and sorrow. He hasn’t kissed me of his own accord in years—and never on the neck like a man might do. I am both touched and shakened by his sweet and mature response to grief. I begin to feel less shabby.
It is the great-great-grand daughter of the man who built the pretty Little House who comes to retrieve her from the crowded city. She puts the Little House on wheels and takes her over the big roads and the little roads until they are back in the country.
So must I find my worth–not among my father’s crowded life–but in the wide open expanse of love that surrounds me when I move away from troubled thoughts.
As the Little House settled down on her new foundation, she smiled happily. The stars twinkled above her…A new moon was coming up… Once again she was lived in and taken care of.