Essays on Faith: A home in the heavens

We once lived in a two-story house so high on a hill that you could almost reach up and touch the clouds.

To get there, you had to drive around and around a hillside on a narrow road, almost meeting yourself coming back in one spot. When you finally reached flat land, you were in front of our house, except you had to look up to see it. It was perched atop another hill and had 30 or 40 steps leading to it.

Higher and higher you climbed until you were on the front porch, which spanned the full width of the house and had a porch swing at one end. We enjoyed many summer evenings swinging on that old squeaky swing while watching lights twinkle in the darkness of the city below.

The front door opened into a large living room with a fireplace on one side and a flight of stairs on the other. Upstairs, the master bedroom, on the front of the house, boasted three adjoining windows. The view was dizzying as your eyes were drawn to the winding road that led to our home.

I couldn’t help thinking, “This has to be about as close to Heaven as one can possibly get without dying.”

We moved there in midsummer — a spectacular time! With copious blooming flowers and trees, cultivated by previous owners, surrounding the house, it felt surreal — like another world — and yet, in only five minutes, you could be off the hill and back into civilization.

Winters were beautiful, but difficult. Trying to drive the hill in snow was an exercise in futility and walking it was nearly impossible. However, when snow covered the abundant foliage and long, pointy icicles formed on roof edges, it was a lovely sight to behold and felt even more otherworldly than summer.

Our children played on the hillside that was our front yard. Although it was practically a prerequisite to have one leg shorter than the other, they adjusted and had a wonderful time. One saving grace was the level concrete patio at the back, right outside the kitchen door. It was the width of the house, giving our youngest daughter ample room to ride her tricycle. We bought a 6-foot redwood picnic table where the kids shared their summer lunches with ants and bees and the family dog.

Family picnics were fun, too!

Our two sons started school during our time on the hill. I felt uneasy when they left each morning to walk down the many steps that took them off the nearly vertical hillside and then several blocks to the school they attended. Fortunately, our next door neighbors had a daughter, a few years older, who agreed to look after them, both going and coming. In those days, people helped each other without expecting anything in return.

That trudge to school, even in wintertime, is still a fond memory for both sons.

They also walked all that distance back home for lunch every day. Most of the “hill kids” did. Those were different times.

Though life seemed near perfect, there was a fly in the ointment.

Our eldest son was a gentle soul, the essence of kindness. He wouldn’t even kill a bug! He and his younger brother argued regularly over the fate of insects they often encountered.

When gentle son arrived for lunch one day with tears streaming down his face, I rushed to his side, “What’s wrong?” I asked. Flinging his arms around me, he said, “Stevie Jones was mean to me.”

Through clenched teeth, I said, “What did Stevie do?”

Sobbing, he said, “He hit me and called me names.”

“Did you hit him back?”

“No.”

Seething, I asked, “Why not?”

Looking at me in wide-eyed wonder, my boy said, “I didn’t want to hurt him! Why can’t he just be nice?”

Stunned, I hugged him and said, “Maybe you should ask him that question.”

I prayed continuously for my son’s safety. Happily, Stevie’s interest in bullying was short-lived.

After four short years, we were forced to move when we learned we’d soon need more room for a new brother or sister.

Moving day was sad. None of us wanted to leave our home in the Heavens. But God always provides a pleasant memory to ease the pain of a bad experience.

Unbeknownst to us, our youngest son smuggled a kitten into the moving van just before its doors were closed. Hours later, when we unloaded and found a hungry black kitty meowing loudly, and learned how it got there, we shared a good laugh and Cleo had a good home until she died many years later.

I thank God for beautiful memories like these that bind families together forever.

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro.

Essays on Faith may be submitted to gazette@wvgazettemail.com.

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Funerals for Monday, October 14, 2019

Chapman, Donald - 11 a.m., White Funeral Home, Summersville.

Faucett III, Jehugh - 1 p.m., Grace Bible Church, Charleston.

Gilmore, Debora - 1 p.m., Tyler Mountain Memory Gardens, Cross Lanes.

Glover, Carrie - Noon, Preston Funeral Home, Charleston.

Holstein, Ronnie - 11 a.m., Pineview Cemetery, Orgas.

Hornbeck, Jo Ellen - 2 p.m., Bartlett-Nichols Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Keller II, George - 1 p.m., First Presbyterian Church Sanctuary.

Lacy, Angie - 1 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Myers, Angela - Noon, Stevens & Grass Funeral Home, Malden.

Painter, Dorothy - 1 p.m., Tyree Funeral Home, Oak Hill.

Park, Emily - 11 a.m., Old Stone Presbyterian Church, Lewisburg.

Stone, Karen - 7 p.m., Casdorph & Curry Funeral Home, St. Albans.

Sweet, Ufa - 11 a.m., Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.

Tomblin, Vonnie - 1 p.m., Mountaineer Missionary Baptist Church, Harts.

Williams, Raymond - 1 p.m., Dodd & Reed Funeral Home, Webster Springs.