Home. It was a place of refuge. My first words, upon coming home from school were always these: “Mom, are you here?” And always, yes always came the comforting rejoinder, “I’m here, son,” for in all the days of our growing up, dad insisted on mother being there for us.
Dad presided over our home, but it was mother who nurtured us, caring for us in a way that father approved of, for they worked in tandem. After all, he and my mother were truly unified, and very much in agreement about how to raise their children.
I have a tattered book at home. It is a copy of “Mare Nostrum” written by the renowned Spanish author, Vicente Blasco Ibanez. On the inside leaf is written the following: “Dedico este libro a mi hijo Cristobal Lopez, con todo carino, de parte de su padre, en este mes de Octubre, de 1960.” (I dedicate this book to my son, Cristobal Lopez, with all my love, October 1960, your father.) The book is allegedly from my father, but the handwriting is mother’s, and it was mother, and not father, who recognized the literary value of “Mare Nostrum”. It was like mother to always, always, give my father credit, that her children might look up to him. We caught on early that mother loved and honored dad. It wasn’t necessary that she do that, for dad cut his own swath, and we loved and looked up to him, on his own credit. And it is almost pointless to say that we revered mother for so honoring dad.
Dad was pretty straightforward about where to draw the line with his children’s liberties, so we went to mother when we needed intercession about something on our wish list. On rare occasions, she could get him to “listen to reason”. To go to dad before going to mother, was usually to run up against an emphatic NO. And never did we dare go to mother after dad had already place his big NO stamp on a venture. That wouldn’t work. We went to her first. When the NO came through her it was in a softer hue.
Mother ran the household while dad was at work, and when he came home he handled anything she may have had a problem with. We learned early on that any disrespect for mother did not sit well with him. He was that way about the female gender. When our little sister came along, she could get away with practically anything, and she learned quickly the value of blackmail. Many were the conspiracies my brothers and I entertained against her, but to no avail. She had dad in her corner, to the end of his days.
Dad revered his mother, and perhaps it might seem to some an anomaly, but mom got along well with her mother in law. It was a poignant scene and said much for the tenderness of my mom, that when dad’s mother died, she passed from this life not in the arms of her daughters, who were present, but in my mother’s arms. Grandmother loved mom, and mom loved her husband’s mother. That said much for the unity between mother and dad. (One takes into account also the character of my grandmother. Hers was a pure love, steeped in adversity, and in her, mother found a kindred soul.)
In our home, prayer prevailed. We rolled out of bed in the morning to personal prayers, and gathered around the breakfast table for the same. Pulling a chair away from the table we knelt down around it. If dad was not present, mother would assign one of us children to say the prayer. If she felt a particular urgency to bless us that day, she was voice in the prayer.
We prayed around the dinner table, and dinner was a time to unwind from the day, and to share our experiences with mom and dad listening and occasionally uttering a word of advice. It was at this time when mother might share a scripture with us, with dad commenting on it. Yes, dinner was a special time, with much of laughter around the table.
If you’ve ever watched “The Waltons” on TV, and heard the goodnights all around, as they prepared for bed, that was us, “goodnighting” one another until mother or dad pronounced a, “that’s enough children, go to sleep.” But prior to that, we had gathered in the living room, kneeling for family prayer, with dad announcing who was going to lead us in prayer. Yes, in our home, prayer prevailed, and we were the better for it.
The Sabbath Day is holy unto the Lord, and it was sacred in our home. We dressed in our Sunday best for morning services, which meant white shirts and ties and a suit for us boys, and the prettiest dress for our sister. Morning church services were followed by the best meal of the week. Two young missionaries far away from home, which in those days was usually Utah, Idaho, Arizona, or California, were almost always our guests for the meal. We raised chickens, as did most people in those days, and on Saturday afternoon, one of us boys was sent to fetch and dispatch two hens, a task I much disliked. It was then defeathered, and dressed for baking for the next day. Our lunch fare usually consisted of the two fried chickens, mashed potatoes and gravy, peas, and a carrot raisin salad and biscuits. The meal was always followed by two lemon meringue pies.
In the evening we returned to church services. There was no work or play on Sundays, for we strictly observed the Sabbath, in keeping with Isaiah 58, “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” Yes, we observed with strictness the Sabbath Day.
In our home, there was never any profanity, or anything approaching it. There were none of crude displays or that which might be considered inappropriate. We laughed much in our home, but never, no never, at any so called joke which may have hinted at anything inappropriate. Mother saw nothing humorous about anything risque or suggestive of indecency. (If she were alive today, she would be shocked at the things one sees at the walk up counter of the grocery store, part of a pattern of moral decline.)
With the passing of years, I have come to truly appreciate my parents, for our home was a happy home, as near to Heaven as two parents can make a home. They truly believed that “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalms 127:3) and so reared us. Theirs was a sacred duty to rear us in love and righteousness. They understood, as we all ought understand, that one day we must stand before our Maker to be held accountable on how we have discharged that most sacred trust of raising up our children in righteousness. Not career, nor worldly honors, nor vain ambition in this life, will trump the sacred obligation of rearing our children in righteousness. Indeed, I had parents who loved me. They understood that the greatest work we will ever do is within the walls of our own home. I am grateful for their faithful discharge of that sacred duty. I am grateful that in our home, prayer prevailed.