The Threshold: Finding Joy

It was the bells that made me open the door. December 31, 1968. Or was it January 1, 1969? We were moving into our new house. I rode in the back of a pick-up truck crammed in with the furniture from our house in rural Alabama to our new house in Birmingham. The ride was in the dark, and the wind whipped my hair all around my face as I cowered under a cover in the cold.

We were moving up in the world. My dad had a new job in the city. The old house in the country had been a small cape cod where I shared a bedroom with my brother. There had been chickens in the backyard and a coal-heated fireplace. The new one had a bedroom just for me, with pecan trees to climb and two big floor furnaces. By midnight, we had everything moved into the new house, but my room wasn’t ready. I was going to sleep in the living room. Everyone else had gone to bed.

Then I heard the bells. I opened the front door and stood in the dark doorway. The bells were from the churches and fireworks were going off. I could hear whooping and hollering about the New Year from the surrounding houses. I had never heard such a cacophony from a community before, such a sharing of joy and noise. I was awed by this spontaneous jubilation in a town where I knew no one. I stood on the threshold in my pajamas on my 8-year-old tiptoes and took it all in, gathering the joy into myself and thinking that I would love this place.

I never did love this place. I tried. The first day of school, I learned that it was a tight community, joyful but wary of outsiders. I never fit in. When I look back at my childhood, the ten years I spent there are like a small blip in my brain compared to my memories of the other places I grew up. The new town didn’t meet my expectations or my needs.

So often we stand at the threshold of someplace new. We imagine the adventures, the exploring to be done, the new friendships to be made. And then it’s not quite right. It’s not “happily ever after.” When I was able, I moved to a new school in a new community and found a place I fit. Real joy is when we cross the threshold out of our homes into a world of support and love. Sometimes it takes moving around a bit, being uncomfortable for awhile until we’re able to find that right place. And when it’s found, we make a joyful noise and are glad of it.

Denise Benshoof

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