When we first moved there, the yard wasn’t much to look at. It was a square space between the church and the parsonage, with a few bushes on the side. It was not a very useful space. Commuters would cut through the space on the way to the train, sometimes stealing our morning paper on their way. Flower delivery boys would go to the sacristy door every Saturday afternoon to deliver the Sunday morning altar flowers. It was not much of a sanctuary or a play space for our family of six.
Slowly, the yard started to change. Dad planted some maple trees. Mom, who had a reputation of having a green thumb when we lived in Central Illinois, planted new rose bushes. They convinced the trustees of the church to have a fence built, which gave us a little more privacy and provided a safe place for my little brother and sister to play. In the spring, the forsythia bushes bloomed a bright yellow. The grass grew green and the trees grew tall. Pink tea roses bloomed all summer long. My sister and I practiced hitting a ball with our wooden Louisville Slugger. Dad would grill hamburgers and pile the coals in the middle of the grill so that after dinner, we could roast marshmallows. We slowly claimed the yard and it became ours.
There were always little reminders that the yard was not really ours. We just lived there as the pastor’s family; it belonged to the church. One sunny day, I was recovering from mono which I had contracted during grad school. I was napping on a lawn chair in the yard; suddenly, a man carrying flowers came through the gate. It was Saturday afternoon–time for the weekly delivery.
Eventually, my parents bought their own house and moved out of the parsonage. The yard changed. The rose bushes slowly died and disappeared. The fence became dilapidated. A large air conditioning unit for the church took over the yard. My dad’s prized maples died and had to be cut down. The yard suffered from neglect and was an ugly place to walk through.
The house changed into an office. The church secretary (whom we love dearly) sits and types the church newsletter where we sat down to eat dinner. Her desk occupies the place where we played Trivial Pursuit and where I almost failed trigonometry. The church mailboxes for various committees and boards is in the place of the piano where my sisters practiced Chopin for hours. It is the strangest feeling to go into my old kitchen to make copies for my Vacation Bible School students in the summer.
Things change; life won’t stand still. It is neither good nor bad; change just is.
Someone has decided to pay attention to the yard again. It is being turned into a prayer garden. The blueprint sits in the narthex of our church, and I wonder if I should help return the yard to a beautiful sanctuary once again.
I want to be happy. I want the yard to be a place of beauty; a place that isn’t neglected and run down.
But. I miss the pink roses.