When I was a little girl, my Grandmother Peacock’s house was heaven to me.
I am one of six siblings in my branch of the Peacock clan. Grandma Peacock’s row house was a safe and secure harbor – a refuge away from the scary house in which we actually lived. Once a month or so, each one of us got a chance to go on the equivalent of a Club Med vacation — a weekend at Grandma’s — a chance to be an only child.
Grandma’s Anacostia home was a fairy tale castle. There was a bathroom with an enormous footed tub and a telephone closet on the first floor. There was a dining room AND a breakfast room. Downstairs was the best. There was an upright piano – painted bright red and a workshop with all kinds of gadgets and tools and little jars filled with all kinds of widgets and screws.
In my tea-totaling grandmother’s house there was a built in bar with a brass rail, swizzle sticks. and Heurich beer signs. The downstairs shower had four showerheads! (Who knows what went on down there in the Roaring Twenties?!)
In Grandma’s house there were many mansions. And here over many a weekend, she prepared a place for us. When you stayed over at Grandma’s there was always plenty of food. She was no great cook — she was big on cornflakes and Cool Whip as condiments. You could fault her on her cooking — but never on her generosity.
On Saturday night we’d go to the lecture at the National Geographic Society. On Sunday morning before breakfast, we would go to St Theresa’s for 8:00 Mass. We got fed in body, mind and soul.
For ninety-six years Grandma Peacock (It seems disrespectful to call her Agnes — even now) made room — enormous room.
Grandma’s little summer place on Butternut Road is where we learned to pick Chesapeake Bay Blue crabs – the family sacrament. We’d gather on the lawn for something like family reunions. The tiny cottage was way too small to hold us all but — miraculously — somehow it did. To me it was as grand as the Taj Mahal.
In the seventies, Grandma downsized and moved to an apartment. Still her welcome mat was always out.
In our rebellious years, we regularly showed up on her doorstep uninvited. She’d be ready to feed us in a heartbeat from whatever she might find in her fridge. We caused all kinds of trouble in our adolescence — which I will not embarrass myself with here. No matter what we did, though, Grandma never turned us out. I never heard her speak ill of anybody although I’m sure she did entertain some not so nice thoughts. At least in my hearing — she never let them out.
I think Grandma always thought of us as we appeared in those school pictures and family portraits that lined her hallway. In the most desperate of places, she still managed to see glimmers of hope in all of those faces.
And she had faith. Grandma’s apartment was a shrine of Catholic kitsch: plastic statues of Mary and the Infant of Prague and pictures of the Pope back to John XXIII. Rosary beads were draped over her bed post and an Ave Maria playing music box hung on her wall. Her coffee table was piled high with the Catholic Digest and the Catholic Standard. Remarkably — all this kitschy stuff really meant something. Faith was not just something she believed. Faith was something she did.
She kept faith with us and — in so many ways — she was my salvation. A weekend in my grandmother’s house made living in my own chaotic and dysfunctional house that much more bearable – at least for a little while. For three short days I would be loved – the way I should have been loved as a child every day of my life. The way all God’s children should be loved all the time.
Believe in me, Jesus says. In my Father’s house are many dwelling places. I go to prepare for you a place so that where I am you may be also.
I have often imagined when I hear this gospel: Jesus rushing back to his Father’s house to get the guest room ready: Jesus running the vacuum. Jesus changing the sheets; Jesus putting fresh flowers on bedside table and fresh towels in the bathroom; Jesus running to the Safeway to stock the fridge for unexpected guests – a heavenly Holiday Inn.
I know this Jesus – the Jesus who lived in my Grandma Peacock. I know that this Jesus loved me and loves me. This Jesus saved me and rescued me. This Jesus allowed me to grow up wounded, yes – but also healed and whole.
In her house is plentiful redemption.
In her house are many mansions,
many dwelling places,
the very house of God.