A few weeks ago — in the mad frenzy of moving prep — a man came to Quarters One from a local transportation company to assess what would be needed to pack our earthly possessions for the journey from the Land of the Midnight Sun to the Land of the Morning Calm. He was armed with a clipboard, calculator, measuring tape, and his best judgement.
He opened cabinets, peeked inside closets, took stock of dishes, electronics, clothing, and furniture. He surveyed, surmised, and assessed — seeking the answer to one pressing question:
What does this house hold?
He would leave with an estimate, but only part of the story.
In the 23 months of our occupation, this historic, barn-red house held more than goods. It held our dreams, fears, joy, and tears…It held exuberant highs and crushing lows. It held the shuffle of boots in the mudroom from A Certain Flyboy fighting the good fight in defense of our nation — from the North Slope of Alaska to the tropics of Diego Garcia. It held a proud, busy, and sometimes lonely military spouse eager for a few precious, uninterrupted moments with her man.
It held a revolving parade of a dozen sets of guests dragging suitcases to the assortment of guest rooms in the “Crazy Arctic Fun House,” and it held their excitement and awesome wonder at some of God’s finest handiwork on full display in the 49th state.
This house held new goals, dashed hopes, triumphs, and challenges. It held the giggles and exuberance of precious toddlers, the clatter of dinner party dishes, the hum of laughter and long conversations, and the comforting glow of the fireplace throughout the long winter months. It held the comfort and familiarity of family — and friends we love like family.
It held hundreds of service members — our honored guests for official functions, receptions, theme parties, and Sweet Sundays. It held the blessing of new friendships and the curse of inevitable military goodbyes.
It held countless mornings watching the majesty of Alaska unfold outside the windows — each season more beautiful than the last. It held the constant surveillance of an aurora-seeker obsessively peering out the windows and scanning the darkness for the dancing borealis lights — and my never-waning excitement from hospitality-checks by countless moose who lumbered through the yard, lowered their gangly legs into a comfy spot, and sat for hours in quiet repose.
Quarters One held stress and affection, joy and angst. It held celebrations, holidays, merriment and mirth. It held the tears of an anguished mom dealing with the unimaginable horror of her child’s suicide, and the uncommon strength and inspiring optimism of a friend battling the ravages of cancer. This house held sorrow, compassion, and fervent prayers — for those engaged in life-altering battles with illness and disease, and for loved ones grieving the heart-wrenching loss of a precious father, a sister, a brother, and a friend. It held the ache of absence, the pain of lost fellowship, the anguish of “what if” and “if only,” and the longing for comfort, for peace, and for hope.
This house held the compassion, kindness, and selflessness of precious women — sisters and friends from near and far — who hovered over me with tenderness, tough love, sensitivity, and generosity of spirit following two painful surgeries. It held my silent tears, prayers, impatience, humility, discouragement, and fresh appreciation for the blessing of life’s simple pleasures.
It held the glow of twinkling lights on the birch trees, marathon binge-watching sessions under the blanket of winter darkness, scrabble games, hallway dancing, and the aroma of countless confections. It held the joyful news of engagements, promotions, new life, new jobs, graduations, remissions, and answered prayers.
It held grace and mercy, comfort and sacrifice, frustration and satisfaction, regret and contentment…
thankfulness and love.
What this house held can’t be measured in pounds, appraised on inventories, and packed away in wooden crates.
Our house held Us.
So, when all the boxes were packed and the space echoed with loneliness – I did what I always do: I walked in solitude through the house, my heels calling out a cadence on the hardwood floors, and I said goodbye to every room.
I ended my final walkthrough in the sunroom where we welcomed myriad guests with handshakes, hugs, and Southern hospitality. It was in this room, at every gathering, that row upon row of shoes and boots covered the terra cotta tiles leaving behind traces of salt, melted snow, grass, or leaves – along with treasured memories of evenings spent in camaraderie and fellowship.
I stood for several minutes watching the afternoon sun pour in through the columns of glass stretching along the south side of the house. The red and white geraniums swayed gently in the late August breeze. One stray pinwheel spun frantically at the corner of the flower bed – a forgotten remnant of the festive Independence Day decor. The flags flanking the front door announced our allegiance to Old Glory and the Last Frontier with a steady wind-whipped rhythm, and a 4-ship of magpies dive-bombed the large and stately evergreen in the front yard.
It was a comforting, yet bittersweet, tableau for this sentimental soul.
Just outside the front door, a large stone monument presides over the domicile like a sentinel. It bears the description of the first meeting between President Nixon and Emperor Hirohito of Japan, which took place in Quarters One in 1971. I stood in silent reverie gazing at this marker, and thought of all who graced this home over the decades: heads of state, dignitaries, military leaders, everyday American patriots and their precious families, neighbors, community members, friends, and loved ones — and I was filled with pride and humility knowing that we share in its grand and distinguished legacy.
I paused, as my eyes welled up with memories, and soaked in my final moments in this house. I whispered a prayer of gratitude for the provision, presence, and grace of the One who has held and sustained us in every home, and every move, for more than three decades.
Then, I closed the door behind me for the last time.
We are now in a new land, in a country thousands of miles removed from the 49th state. In time, the moving trucks will deliver our goods and regurgitate our possessions into our next temporary home. There, we will open our hearts, invest in people and the transformative power of hospitality, and strive to leave behind a worthy legacy before we, inevitably, say another sad farewell.
I have no idea what the new house will hold, nor what memories we will make within its walls. But one thing is certain: when the key is ours, I’ll do what I always do. I’ll walk in solitude though the empty house,
I’ll say hello to every room,
hello to this new chapter of our story,
…and I’ll whisper a prayer of thanks to the One who has gone before us and held us in every home, and every move for more than three decades. In the midst of the chaos of this nomadic life, I will rest in the One who never moves and never changes — grateful that his provision, presence, and grace will surround and sustain us in all our house will hold.
Quarters One was the 21st home for A Certain Flyboy and this nomadic Air Force spouse. A wood plaque hangs as a permanent fixture in the front hallway. It is inscribed with the names and occupancy dates of all residents dating back to 1943. This working house has its share of quirks and challenges. Through the decades it has been remodeled, repaired, repainted, and has reflected the leadership and hospitality styles of each military family, including ours, who have called it “Home.” August 2016-August 2018: It’s been an honor.