TGIF: Feels Like Home To Me

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Hospitality

I didn’t grow up around plants.

I couldn’t tell you much about mulch, rootstock or pruning.

When most kids were asked to “Water the plants” the Francis kids were asked to “Dust the plants.” Growing up in the Middle East where the weather was not conducive to gardening, silk plants were all the rage. They were consistent, sturdy and provided a nice pop of green in our home.

Back then, I didn’t know that “sturdy” isn’t necessarily an appealing adjective for indoor foliage. I thought the plants were a great return on investment. Easy to maintain, beautiful and durable. If my sister and I knocked over a plant when we were roughhousing, we could just plop it back up. No muss, no fuss. I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to waste their time and money on real plants.

That was before I moved to the Pacific North West. Lush, bejeweled, enchanting PNW.

This was the first time my immigrant family had a house with a yard with actual grass that needed to be tended. We knew nothing about Mother Earth or how to tame her bad hair days. Our neighbours must’ve been tickled pink by the clandestine family meetings in our backyard. All of us, bowing our heads reverently, encircled around the mysterious lawn mower.

Here! Pull this cord.
No. No. I think we have to drag it.
On the count of 3, everybody push!
It looked so easy in the Archie comics…

Two years ago…my then-boyfriend now-husband Kupa introduced me to some of his dear family friends in Seattle.

Here I was, the girl who couldn’t operate a lawn mower meeting Mama Heckt, The Plant Whisperer. At first glance, it seemed like Anne-Marie (fellow SheLoves writer) and I had nothing in common. But the moment I stepped through her doorway I knew I was Home.

Now “home” is a fairly elusive concept, especially for an Indian expatriate, who grew up in the Middle East, relocated to Canada and married a Zambian she met in Portland.

So why did I feel like I was coming home?

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Three steps into Anne-Marie’s home and I’m greeted with a vase full of impossibly beautiful asian pear blossoms, hellebore, evergreen huckleberry, newly budding oak leaf and hydrangea branches.

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Anne-Marie gives me a closer look at the evergreen huckleberry to get a peek at the hidden blossoms….

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….and the asian pear blossoms.

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I slip off my boots, peel off my winter layers and make my way to the bedroom where Kupa dropped off our bags. Sigh. Yet another stunning floral offering. I knelt down beside the turquoise vase to marvel at the cluster of grape hyacinths, easter anemone and stem of heather.

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In the living room, I quickly find myself snuggled up on the couch under Steve’s flannel blanket beside Kupa. Plates of sweet Bartlett pears, crunchy red peppers, sliced turkey and bowl of nachos are laid before us–a late afternoon snack. A cup of rose tulsi tea for me and some chai for Kupa.

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We talk about Justin’s sci-fi novel, our plans to move into a bigger apartment and the baby we’re expecting. All this while, Myrtle the Turtle lazily makes his way across the sunlit floor. (Yes. That’s his real name!)

Later that afternoon, we bundle up into the minivan and take a scenic drive past Greenlake Park where Anne-Marie likes to rollerblade on a sunny day. The same park where Steve charmed Anne-Marie to dance atop a garbage can on a midnight stroll over two decades ago–the beginning of their romance.

We find parking and amble our way up the street to Mighty O’s Donuts and buy some donuts to go. We cross the street to Zoka’s–a coffee shop where Anne-Marie usually meets her writing group. We snag a table that serendipitously appears. We order drinks. Our table is now peppered with lattes, lavender mocha, chai, americano and donuts. Between bites of chocolate and cinnamon donuts we talk about church, family and parenting.

After an hour of conversation, we stop at Theo’s Chocolate, where we “taste” a shameful amount of chocolate samples and buy an assortment of caramels to share after dinner.

Before heading home we make a quick stop at the store to buy steaks for dinner. Kupa and I meander towards each other. We lock hands and kiss in front of some dessert wine.

There is something about being around these wonderful folks that helps me see my husband.

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.” — L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables, #2

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Lately, I’ve been wondering if there is a link between hospitality and gardening.

H. Jackson Brown Jr. was onto something when he said, “Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.”

Perhaps digging in the dirt cracks opens a portal to healthy children, connected community and asian pear blossoms. What if weeding, pruning and watering, even where there is seemingly no fruit, is the discipline required to live a meaningful life? Maybe kneeling in the soft earth is the secret posture of humility necessary to nurture seed, life and love.

Love you more than Red Velvet Strawberry Shortcake.

xoxo,
Teen

Gabrielle Aplin, Home

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Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis
  • Erin Wilson

    As soon as I saw the photo of you and Anne-Marie together, tears started to slip down my cheeks.

    To find home in another, in one’s self in another’s presence, in flowers and greens nurtured by tender human hands or the wildness of Creator… oh, my soul.

    • Anne-Marie

      Oh Erin. There’s a cup of tea waiting.

      • Erin Wilson

        Your tea feels a world away right now… but your graciousness here… Anne-Marie, you teach me so much.

  • Bev Murrill

    I love you Tina!

    Anne-Marie… I wanna come to your house!

    Beautiful song/Lovely singer.

    • Anne-Marie

      You are very welcome Bev! But you need Tina there. She and Kupa make everything more lovely with their presence.

  • Anne-Marie

    Dear Tina, You make beauty with your hands and lens. We’re overwhelmed by the blessing of having you in our lives. You make the ordinary quite extraordinary, by attending and opening a view into the best of things. XOXOXO

  • Lovely post Tina! And there surely IS a connection between gardening and hospitality, and between gardening and so many other good things in fact. When God created humans he could have put us anywhere, but he chose a garden. I believe there is so much healing and goodness to be found from learning to care for the soil and, especially, to learn to work with the soil to bring forth food. I hope you get a chance to try!

  • Sharyn Sowell

    Oh, you have captured the essence our dear, dear friend in words.

    Her welcome and hospitality thrives in her home and garden but she brings the breath of sunshine and sunshine everywhere she goes, and kindness is her essence. I am blessed by Anne-Marie every time we speak, which thank the Lord, is often. She reflects Him so well.

    • Anne-Marie

      Sharyn you’re the queen of this thing extending radical welcome beyond by going out to the marginalized. So respect you. And you and Tina need to meet.

  • britney

    Tina, I love how you have quick eyes and a soft heart to just take in and receive all the beautiful things…. I love everything you write and photograph! And Anne-Marie, I wonder if you’ve ever slipped past us on the Greenlake trail! I’m the one with a little girl in a Ninja Turtle helmet, yelling at a dog that’s trying to eat the ducks. 😉

    • Anne-Marie

      Britney I’ll keep an eye out! Flag me down! Also I’m at Zoka weekly w two guys for writing.

  • sandyhay

    I’m smiling all the way to the end. My neighbors are Turkish. Even though they’ve lived in the states for years, their ability to understand gardening equipment, swimming pool pumps , and lots else is minimal . They huddle..3 generations now..and all talk at once in turkish to try to figure out how to go on. Interestingly, my relationship with Kadria, the mama next store, started because she thought the vine in my fence was poison ivy. She still knows little English but our communication was grown through signs and pointing and laughing and sharing gardening ideas and grandchildren cares and sometimes recipes. That’s my neighborhood’s hospitality at its best 🙂

  • I looove this post Teen. I’m so glad you had a time of respite and communion with Anne-Marie. What a beautiful thing it is to gather.

  • Nicole A. Joshua

    This post is like soft warm sunshine on a cool crisp day 🙂 Gardening has not, and never was, my thing, but this piece makes me want to give it a try. I want to try it because I wouldn’t want to miss this “Perhaps digging in the dirt cracks opens a portal to healthy children, connected community and asian pear blossoms.”

  • “There is something about being around these wonderful folks that helps me see my husband.” I know exactly what you mean. I also know exactly what you mean about gardening and hospitality, though I am dreadful at the first and only mediocre at the second (maybe because I’m so dreadful at the first?). This definitely gives me something to think about as I survey the winter-ravaged herbs and flowerpots on our balcony. If I can coax them all back to life, will you come visit? 😀

    • Anne-Marie

      Bethany I’m an uncomfortable host. You’d be surprised what people feel as hospitality. We are a bit reclusive even, awkward for sure.

  • I’ll never be fully at home without a garden. When I moved to Seattle, I expected to be wind up in a shoebox walk-up. But miraculously, an apartment in a daylight basement with big sunrise-facing windows, space for a workbench for art-making, a beautiful kitchen, and looking out over a backyard garden opened up…with even a small patch for me. Daily reminder of God’s extravagant hospitality. xoxo

  • pastordt

    this.is.perfect. Thanks so much – to you, to Kupa, and to Anne-Marie. And the Montgomery quote? YES.

  • Julie Cochrane

    Delightful! I loved reading this piece this morning Tina. So often we strive for the grand, the momentous, the extraordinary things in life .. when all along out hearts simply yearn for those simple little pleasures that express ‘home’ and ‘welcome’.

  • You feel like home to me …

    Family.

    And: This is beautiful.