20 of ’20: #18. My Living Room

This is my second annual “Best Of” series of year-end posts. Some, I assume, will be brief. Some longer. All, varying degrees of serious. I’ll try my best not to use the words or phrases “unprecedented,” “new normal,” or “unpresidented”, but I can’t make any promises.

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I love my house.

It’s old, built in 1923, sturdy, but could use some work. The exterior needs painting, cracks need repaired, and the industrial carpet is fraying at the seams. Regardless, it is my castle.

In purchasing the house, I benefited from a couple of things: Friends who sold it to me for far less than they could have made selling it to someone else, and buying it about two and a half minutes before the Fixer Upper wave priced me out of any comparable properties (and, really, any properties whatsoever) in Waco. Like every other Wacoan who has friends living in large U.S. cities, the amount of house I have for so little money makes me the envy of many of my people. Roughly 1,400 square feet, a large backyard, three “bed”rooms, and two baths, all to myself.

For several years I had roommates, but I graduated out of that life a few years back. One of the extra bedrooms is a “guest bedroom”, but mainly acts as a storage room for all the Amazon boxes I’ve accumulated over the past year. The other room that doesn’t act as my bedroom is my “TV Room.” It’s the most bachelor room in my house. It consists of a tv, two recliners and a large desk (which hold up said tv), all of which I inherited from roommates more than a decade ago. The rest of the house is what I presume to be the original 1923 Shotgun House. Living room-Dining Room-Kitchen, all in a straight shot behind each other.

When I made the grown-up decision several years ago to move the television into what is now the “TV Room,” I assumed the living room would only be used for having guests over, which I do very infrequently, even in non-pandemic times. This remained the case until well into 2020. When the pandemic hit and I began working from home, I spent 90% of my waking hours in the TV Room, working from my recliner. I helped set up a city-wide system of meal drop off sites for children in that recliner. I took Zoom calls (with my camera off) and watched daily COVID briefings from that room. That room, though, began to exhaust me, so I migrated to my Living Room.

When the national desk shortage began to dissipate, I purchased an office desk and chair for the wall that is directly in front of my (unusable) fireplace. This gave me a place to sit down for a few hours each day to be productive. I found myself staying in the room, even when work was over. I read all my books this year in the room. I drank my morning coffee in the room, and would often just sit and stare into space in the room. Right now my Christmas tree is in the room (as am I,) and since I long ago gave up the charade that I won’t allow Jane on the furniture, my dog is currently taking a nap on the loveseat in the room.

There’s a bobblehead of Kim Mulkey and her three National Title trophies on one of the bookshelves. Also on the bookshelves are pictures of my dad, Kyle, Jude, Sutton, and Avery. There’s a photo of Jane and a picture of me with my friends Jason, Jason, and Blake. There are advent candles and scented candles, and more than a few pictures of Tartu and Waco.

On the mantle is a vase. When people ask me about the vase, I start off the story this way: “My friend and pastor Kyle, who passed away many years ago….” and often their bodies tense up because they assume I’m about to say the vase holds his ashes. It’s a funny way to start the story, because the story actually is about the ashes of the dead. He began one of his sermons by somberly and reverently speaking about his aunt who had passed away the previous month (which was true) and about how he was given some of her ashes to keep in a vase (which wasn’t true.) He set the vase down on a table, presumably to come back to at a later point in the sermon, and continued with some points. As he was walking around, making his points, he kept getting dangerously close to the vase with the ashes in it, making many of us in the crowd tense up. Then, it happened. He bumped into the table and ashes fell out all over the stage. There were gasps from the crowd, performative chaos from Kyle, and eventual laughter when he announced that the vase didn’t actually contain his aunt’s ashes. (Anyone who tells you that the best way to make people remember a sermon is to have memorable visuals, doesn’t know what they are talking about. I can’t for the life of me remember what that sermon was about.)

When I was on staff at UBC, I found the vase in a cabinet, where it would have remained, unappreciated, for many years had I not “rescued” it and delivered it to the mantle in my living room. I look at that vase often. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I cry. Usually I just smirk at the knowing.

Oh, I also take naps in my living room. They are always short, less than ten minutes. But I always wake up in comfort. It’s usually in those restful moments that I sigh, and dream about times past and times to come when the room is filled with laughter and friendship again.

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