Living the Sweet Life: Finding Home


Victoria Ann and Alisa Murray,  Ellen McGinnis (Grandma) and James Edward Murray.

Victoria Ann and Alisa Murray, Ellen McGinnis (Grandma) and James Edward Murray.

If you think back to when you were a child, there are special things from that time in your life that you will duplicate as an adult. I never realized how much the small things around you are some of the most influencing things about you until my recent visit with Ellen, or I should say, Mom.

When I was a child, I spent a lot of time with my mother’s best friend, Ellen. Mother and Ellen, as I wrote about years ago, were always crafting and doing things together. They even had a homeless lady, who the whole town called “Crazy Mary,” that they fed daily back in their day. Those two were involved with introducing the Junior Great Books programming into the public schools and directly responsible for the best Sunday school crafts in town.

Ellen became a second mother when my own was killed. In her telling me stories of who my mother was, she connected her life to my own. It was a patchwork of broken pieces, and although she could not make the whole quilt, what Ellen created was an amazing place to dream and feel loved despite the “wicked stepmother” who had moved into my home.

Ellen’s house was a spectacular place on what Daddy called “the wrong side of town,” making it that much more alluring to me. It was an old house with dark woods, creaking floors and special hiding places for that old game of seek and find. It always smelled of cookies or sausage, and each Christmas, we had our annual tea with Santa where Ellen gave a doll to a child who otherwise would not have gotten any present. Ellen was as close to being my mother than anyone ever could be, and despite all of the sacrifices that went along with filling those shoes, she did it.

This July, we as a family went to North Carolina. No trip to North Carolina is complete without a visit to see Ellen. This time, however, both Victoria Ann and James Edward wanted to go with me. Ellen met us in the driveway saying things like, “Oh my” and “Just look at you!” After hugs and kisses and taking each other in, she invited us to go inside of her house. There on the counter was homemade sausage balls and orange juice. Victoria Ann gave me a funny look.

We sat down and began talking about life and catching up, and James Edward glanced up at the walls. There just above our heads were hands painted and stamped onto paper, carefully dated and framed. He smiled and said, “Just like at our house, Mom. Are those your hands?” I smiled and began to take inventory of my surroundings. Watching my children warm to her and feel as if they were “home” broke the bitter spell of my own home having been sold to strangers and no longer a place to visit or share with them. Ellen told them stories about their grandmother just as she had done for me when I was their ages. It was a beautiful visit and perhaps the best part for me of our trip.

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Later as we were walking around, we saw on the door of the bedroom a large piece of paper where a child had drawn a story board about getting well. Ellen had taped it to the door as a prominent piece of art in the hallway. Jamesy looked up at me with a big smile. “She saves scribbles just like you do!” he exclaimed. I said, “Yes, she sure does!” Everywhere I looked, I could see similarities to our home here in Texas. I knew deep down we shared something super special, and like so many things about me and my life, Ellen and I never would have had that relationship if Mommy had not died. I did not realize, though, how all those little things that Ellen did and always had done were replicated in my own home.

We went to the living room, and I looked down and saw three little china doll babies. Immediately, as if reading my mind, Ellen picked one up and all at once gave it to Victoria Ann. A small treasure! When we got in the car, the children were talking about how much our house was like her house and how much everything I do was like her. They both said, “That was like going to see our grandma!” I told them that was because she is!

Remember your moments and take care of YOU!

Alisa