The House that became Our Home
At a very young age, in an effort to create stability and to prevent further military moves, my single-parent father sent my siblings and me to Arkansas to live with my grandparents. While we were being raised by my grandparents, we were taught that a home was the most important aspect of a family. My grandfather built my grandmother’s dream home— cement block by cement block. He drove nails into each stud and laid each shingle with loving care. We would walk around the foundation of the house together, while he pointed out how important it was to have no cracks, a dry basement and good, strong cement walls to support the house. My grandparents’ house would later become a symbol of what it meant to plant roots and build a strong foundation for my family.
A year ago, I found myself searching for a new place to live for my two daughters and me. I didn’t know if it was feasible, but I decided to pursue my dream of buying a house. The houses in my price range were slim pickings, but I finally found one that seemed perfect. As I drove up to the house, I saw an apple tree in the front yard that reminded me of the garden at my grandparents’ house. In the backyard was a beautiful playhouse. I instantly knew this was our home. A few weeks later, my heart filled with pride as my daughters walked into their new house and their own rooms for the first time.
With fall came the arrival of leaves that blanketed the ground. A knock on my door one weekend surprised me. I opened the door to a teen boy asking if I would hire him to rake the leaves in the yard. Pushing my hesitations aside, I agreed. When he finished the front yard, it was close to dark, and he had not started on the backyard. I told him I would pay him for the front, and if he wanted, he could come back the next morning. I wondered if he would just take the cash and not come back, but the next morning, he rode up on his bike. I walked outside, feeling raindrops on my face and asked if he wanted to do it another day. He replied, “No, ma’am. I told you I would do it today. I can do this.” I was amazed by his determination.
Winter came, and the snow fell. As I pulled into the driveway one evening after work, I knew that I would need to shovel. After both daughters were fed and settled into bed, I heard a motor outside my kitchen window. Peeking through the window, I saw a tall man pushing a snow blower across my driveway. It was my neighbor Mr. B. I ran outside and enveloped him in a bear hug to express my thanks. He continued to blow the snow from my driveway and sidewalk for the rest of the winter season.
During Christmas that year, our other neighbors invited us for Christmas dinner—Nigerian-style. I had hosted them for an American Thanksgiving, so they were excited to show us their traditions. My eyes teared up as I looked around the table and was reminded of sitting at my grandparents’ table when I was young. Toward the end of dinner, our hostess put on a beautiful African dress. I noticed she also had a lovely gold material in her hands. She explained to me that the gold fabric was an African dress she wore when she and her husband were married, when their families were united. She asked if I would accept it as a gift. I was stunned that she would give me something that was so personal to her. As I stood wearing the beautiful gift, I saw the smiles on my daughters’ faces. The laughter in the room rang through my ears, and my heart sang with happiness. After the festivities were over, my daughters and I walked across the snowdrifts to our house, the Christmas lights on the tree shining through our window as a guiding light. I opened the front door and realized that the roots I so desperately wanted to plant were now intertwined in the house that had become our home.
Danielle Teal is a mother of two daughters and is now a proud homeowner.