Home and hospitality

I grew up in a small apartment. But my parents seemed oblivious to the lack of abundant space and resources, so when we hosted people for meals or overnight, we gave everything we had without overthinking it. I just wish our one bathroom was more posh than it was.

Anyway, we were oblivious about the luxuries other people had experienced before visiting us and that made our joy of hosting genuine.

When I brought Conrad home for the first time, I was embarrassed that the stovetop was dirty. So I picked up the sponge, warm water, and soaked and scrubbed it. Instead of being put off by the messy stove, Conrad came and warmly hugged me and said I’m a wonderful daughter, to roll up my sleeves to clean my parents’ stovetop. And I believe he meant it. A week later he proposed.

As a kid with two working parents, our house was not the tidiest. As soon as I became aware of our environment I’d start doing the dishes, laundry, vacuum. We all pitched in organically. We had to. But to my dismay (for better or worse) it was never asked of us to do chores, nor was is it imposed. As an adult I wish my parents led the way, or assigned responsibilities, or demonstrated a strategy to upkeep the house. I was never told to clean my room, or do the dishes. I started doing it on my own. Today, in their retirement, my parents’ house is kept tidy and clean. Childrearing while working full-time, my parens prioritized relationships and their sanity.

So my home was cozy growing up. That is the overall memory I have of my childhood.

In Dutch we find the word gezellig. It is often interpreted as “cozy,” though those who know the word realize that substantially more is implied. Gezellig suggests deep contentment, a palpable sense that all is well with those we love. One popular translation is “togetherness that knows no time.”

Two years after I got married, and started to experience real life stress, anxiety, briefly even panic attacks, I started to long for that small home I grew up in. We did end up spending two months of winter there and it healed my mind. I rested. I was served food without having to make it. I breathed. It was not the most comfortable of homes, remember the 1 bathroom, and small quarters, but it was cozy and it gave my anxious mind rest. And Conrad joined me without complaining.

My simple upbringing, was humbling by comparison with the very fancy outside world, but I learned there the hospitality, and unknowingly, my parents prepared me to become a home for others. I took a while, to gain this confidence and strength and warmth and sure-footing, to become a protective healing home, and I’m not referring to four walls and a roof. I’m referring to my heart, my mind and arms.

Adoption at its best is about welcoming others and making room for them in our hearts and in our lives. 

Adoption is about hospitality. The case for this observation can be made with one simple question. What everyday expression do we use to describe hospitable people? “They make you feel at home.” Let those words sink in for a moment. 

Can you think of a better way to describe the purpose of adoption? Is there anything sweeter than feeling at home? Is not our most fervent wish for our children that they feel at home? 

And one more thing about this idea of hospitality. I had experienced extravagant and elegant hospitality in my extended family in California. Mama Gloria and Mama Liz, or as she is known in my family mom (Grammie to my girls).

Truly hospitable people do not treat us like we are special; they treat us like we belong. It’s refrigerator privileges and the blunt expectation that we will pick up after ourselves. 

As a student at mama Gloria. And as a daughter (in law) at mama Liz (as many close young friends call her).

First day at Gloria’s 

Gloria came with a friend and picked me up from SFO. It was a long drive to Sunnyvale. And I was concerned about the effort. My luggage hadn’t arrived, because the flight transfer time was too short. It arrived a week later to our door. 

At home there were flowers in my room and a big helium balloon with the word welcome on it. There was a snack ready. My room was elegantly setup, and I was shown the bathroom and the shower down the hall. Everything was neat and perfumed and elegant. I had an empty wardrobe for my clothes. And I was given space to rest and get settled. I still remember how this welcome made me feel. The love and attention to details still lingers. 

I was shown the washing machine and dryer. I was given full privileges to the fridge. I was showed how to use the dishwasher. 

 Expectations were set. Grace was shown. Boundaries was clarified. And this in itself was grace abundant and restful for the mind. 

At mom and dad’s was easier having their son on my side, receiving familiar grace. I was a daughter, more than a guest. We were married for two months, and I had played host for them while they attended our wedding in Cluj. We stayed with them for 5 weeks before we rented out first apartment in San Jose. 

But there again, a room was thoughtfully prepared, elegant, inviting, and we had space in the closet. The hall bathroom was neatly decorated with essentials available in a basket. Towels, toothpaste, shampoo. 

We, of course, had fridge privileges and very soon I was let in on the housekeeping approach. Once a week I was given the rundown of the house overhaul. I could choose which bathrooms to clean, and which shared spaces to tackle: family room, kitchen, halls, floors, stairs… then she asked if there are any days I want to cook dinner. This involvement and invitation to bring my contribution made me feel like I belong. 

I was always self aware. Yet I was always welcomed as if I belonged. How could I not extend the same grace to my daughters? I learned from the best!