The Key to the House

Have you ever read The House in the Night, by Susan Marie Swanson? It’s a particularly wonderful children’s book that always lingers in my mind well past bedtime story hour.

It was gifted to us towards the tail end of Vivienne’s board book days – she’s always liked it, and Hugh (whose only word so far is “ball!”) enjoys the many ball-shaped stars and moons pictured, but I think overall it’s made the biggest impression on me.

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First of all, it’s totally beautiful with black, white, and gold etchings, but it also kind of takes my breath away when the central idea of the story is revealed. “This is the key to the house.” The first line, a simple statement about the physical object, then repeated at the end, where it becomes a much deeper statement about the true heart of a home. “This is the key to the house,” the light, love, starting again each morning, tucking in at night, the music, books, prayers, laughter, the meals, the routines, the adventures.

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I struggle every day with the duality of the world we live in. On one hand, we are watching death and racism and abuse and sexism and all the other evidence of sin in the world unfolding before us. On the other hand I wake up to delighted children (who are safe! and fed!), we play and sing and cook together – things like strawberry rhubarb pie.  How do strawberry rhubarb pie and ISIS exist simultaneously on this planet? I struggle with this.

Ryan and I both work for non-profit organizations – our day jobs are focused on solving community or global issues. Our home is both a haven for refreshment as well as a place where we hash some of this stuff out. We discuss, read, pray, get angry.  We also polish silver and throw dinner parties.  Somehow it works.

Ryan’s incredibly high energy is always drawing us forward – on to the next event, adventure, project. Vivienne is up for anything and analyzing it all.  Hugh, despite his almost nonexistent vocabulary, is already a communicator, jabbering away, sharing his great pleasures with an enthusiastic shriek or a coy tilt of his head.

Sometimes I dash among them, trying to capture the moments like fireflies in a jar, forgetting to step back and just enjoy the backyard magic winking here and there in the dusk. I’ve got a deep urge to savor this phase of our family life together. Someday Vivi will be too self-conscious to act out wildly creative stories the living room.  Her dozen (at last count) imaginary “neighbors” won’t be with us long. Hugh will stop gazing at me with such pure adoration, blinking slowly, patting my arm as he hums contentedly.

So, these are the keys to our house. Our light, love, starting again each morning, tucking in at night, the music, books, prayers, laughter, the meals, the routines, the adventures. The highs and lows, feast days and fast days.

A while back, Vivienne took a break from her lunch to “check on the sky,” tipping her head back to gaze out the window, and wondered aloud, “How come today was jus a whole day of my life? And then there’ll be another day and another day and another?”


I don’t know the answer to that. I think I said something like, “Because God made it that way.” Classic.  But she’s right to wonder, and I do, too. How come? And, how can we slow it down? And, please God, let me remember moments like this.

3 thoughts on “The Key to the House

  1. Your first post has set a high bar for you to match, Caroline–which I have no doubt you will do. I’m looking forward to more of your thought-provoking musings–


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