While I pay no mortgage, no utility bills, and don’t spend more than a few weeks time there, I feel part owner of 3150 North Otter Creek Road. David and Fontella Lyke may live at this address but I know myself and at least twenty other family members feel like it’s their home too. This house was destined to be more than just walls and a roof. From it’s beginning, it was waiting for the Lykes to take over. My Papaw recently told me the story of how they came to own this place. In 1990, he was traveling for work and he took out a half sheet of paper and wrote the following requirements: red brick, four bedrooms, central air, patch of land. He recalled how later he showed the list to my grandma and said that was the standard. He had no idea that at the time he was building his list, someone else was building his house on the other side of town. A couple years later, in 1992, they saw in ad in the paper for a home for sale by owner and the ad read “secluded.” It was, in fact, so secluded they passed the house entirely the first time they went to see it. After turning around, they slowly drove down the half -mile driveway until it curved and Papaw knew he was in trouble. In the clearing, there sat a red brick house with four bedrooms and central air located on 15 acres. He said it was divine intervention.
The house has been a place of rest and joy not only to our family but also to local ministries, friends, and other out of town guests. Walking throughout the house, any guest will find trinkets and treasures from missionary trips, more books than one could read in a lifetime, and, most prominently, pictures. There’s a wall in my grandparent’s home filled with portraits. Panning across the mismatched frames against the muted pea green wall, no face stands out amongst the crowd. Smiling faces of senior pictures and family cards blend together in this unofficial family tree. Guests can trace the developments of each branch as toddlers in Christmas pajamas change into college graduates displaying degrees. Every moment of joy frozen in time displayed at the center of our heart’s home. It’s those frames of nostalgia we revisit each holiday and weekend visit. The entire house is littered with images of the past. Each side table, armoire, and bookshelf contains hidden treasures of bath time, birthday giggles, and group naptime. Standing amongst the nineties pastel palette are dark brown sepia tones with burnt vignettes closing in on the portrait. These ancient relics recorded during the early days of photography mark our starting line.
My papaw spends most of his time learning about where he came from. His favorite thing to do is to show off old pictures of great-great-greats and tell stories about our messy hillbilly foundation. The importance of family history can be seen throughout their home. But it’s not evidence of people who can’t let go of the past. Honestly, between both of my grandparents, there are many stories I’m sure they would be happy to forget. Before most holiday meals, Papaw says, “If it weren’t for her (pointing to my grandma), and God in my life, none of this would be here. I could have been a drunk, very easily could have been my path, but look what we have now.” Then we join hands around the table, sometimes there are 12 of us and on lucky occasions there are over 30, and sing the Doxology.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
As the final harmonies hold out the last syllable of “Amen”, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the connected spirit in the room. The faces of who we were, younger versions of ourselves, watch as we capture new moments of joy. Walking through my grandparent’s home, you see a story unfold from a young couple starting a family in Michigan into a network that spans the country. Except those pictures are only moments out of the larger narrative. There may be joy, laughter, friendship and love inside the frame, but it’s what’s outside the frame that tells our true story.