Now, for me, the challenge was a bit scary. I am not an arts-and-crafts type of girl. I can bake -- fairly well -- but so can my mom, so she doesn't need another baked good at this time of year. "Why don't you give me the novel you've written?" she said, and I will -- but I also wanted to give her something I've created just with her in mind.
I came up with the idea of a poem, to hang in the home she shares with my step-father in Iowa. The town they live in is the same small town where their parents live, and a short drive away from many of my aunts and uncles and cousins. My parents bought a farmhouse there about six years ago and completely renovated it, adding a wing to the home that was large enough to hold their five children and 11 grandchildren over the holidays.
The renovations were nearly complete when a tornado devastated much of their property on Memorial Day Weekend last year, the same day that a tornado destroyed much of Parkersburg, Iowa. The repairs to their home are still ongoing (you would be surprised at how long such a process can take).
I understand what she and my stepfather went through in part because my family and I were huddled in their basement with my parents, grandparents, aunt, and uncle when the tornado hit, and we heard, felt, and saw what happened that day. But I also understand what the process of rebuilding is like. Four months after the tornado, my home was flooded when rains from Hurricane Ike caused the river behind our home to overflow. We were displaced from our home for 10 months; the repairs to our home will finally be finished later this month.
An experience such as what my parents went through, both on the day of the tornado and during the months of rebuilding that have taken place, taxes you in ways that are difficult to comprehend fully unless you've been through it. And it's my hope for them that, now that many of the repairs are complete, they can enjoy their home again in the way they had always intended.
This poem was created as a way of honoring their intentions for this home, and celebrating all that it has to offer.
Bless This House
This is the house
that was built on dreams,
a house in the land where our families were born,
a house that could grow large enough to hold
and four-legged creatures of all sizes,
a house where we could share a drink with friends on a hot July evening,
or watch the snow fall outside from our front room, warmed by the fireplace we’d built.
This is the house that became a home
for the two of us,
for our dog, Geoffrey, faithful companion, protector of the hearth,
for all who come to celebrate with us:
the birth of grandchildren,
birthdays of those we hold dear,
wedding anniversaries, each year a
This is the house that winds of fury tried to take down one Memorial Day weekend,
as we huddled in our basement,
surrounded by family,
surrounded by love,
but nature’s wrath could not shake
the foundation upon which this house was built:
a foundation of love,
and hard work,
and a stubborn determination to hang onto the dreams we had.
This is the house that became our home.
God bless this home
—Jeni Bell, December 15, 2009