The Last Homely House

“Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely House east of the Sea. That house was, as Bilbo had long ago reported, ‘a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.’ Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.”
The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

This quote from The Lord of the Rings made me teary-eyed the first time I read it. I was newly married and brand new at keeping house on my own. We had literally almost killed our first dinner guest (that’s a GREAT story for another day), and I could barely make food for Matthew and me before falling asleep every night. (You have to understand that it took me about two hours to make a dinner for two people those first few months!) The finer points of homemaking and hospitality seemed like an unreachable dream.

The welcoming home of the Elves at Rivendell that Tolkien wrote about became my goal. Someday I wanted that to be said of my home: “merely being at the Miller’s is a cure for weariness, fear, and sadness.”

Thankfully, Matthew and I share many of the same passions and desires, and offering our home as a place of rest is deeply important to both of us. He has been right with me as we’ve worked to find our hospitality groove.

At some point during our first year of marriage, we realized that we enjoy not only short-term hospitality (dinners, birthday parties, movie nights) but also long-term hospitality (having “houseguests”). Knowing that not every household enjoys that prospect, but that it’s a very real need, we’ve embraced this as a particular mission of ours.

The same imagery from Lord of the Rings that encouraged me also inspired me with a Big Idea. What I love about the Last Homely House is the way it serves as a crossroad for people from many places and walks of life to meet, share stories, and rest together. Some travelers stay for a few days, some for weeks, and some (like Bilbo) just sort of move in. Someday, Matthew and I hope to create a bed and breakfast-type haven – and not necessarily for profit. We just love the idea of opening our home to friends and strangers alike who need a respite.

That’s probably down the road a good 20 years. But keeping it in mind, we’ve taken on a lot of practice! We’ve enjoyed some long-awaited visits from old friends who have flown and driven to our home from various parts of the country. We had a friend visit for a weekend right after we moved to Rhode Island, and she was willing to sleep on an air mattress in the midst of our boxes. My brother, who goes to college three hours away, is always bringing stray friends with him when he comes (and wow, do those guys eat a LOT!). Just recently, one of Matthew’s friends stayed with us for a MONTH while his new apartment was being renovated – and we loved it!

I recently recognized that I actually PREFER the longer visits over short events. A houseguest for a week is way less stressful for me than preparing to have someone over for dinner. I think it’s because I want the house to be perfect for those people I’m just getting to know; some weird need to impress everyone, I guess. But when people come for even a weekend, they fit into the flow of our family life and I no longer feel bad if they see me leaving dishes in the sink or hanging clothes to dry in the dining room.

I think I need to stop trying for “a perfect house.” But I am going to keep working toward making it a place for “food or sleep, or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking…or a pleasant mixture of them all.”

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  • simply_nikki

    Aw, cute! :)

  • thisisthewaywalkinit

    Hi, I decided to rejoin xanga.

  • susaneg

    I’m loving your posts on hospitality, Becky! Hospitality has been something that I’ve long wanted to someday be able to extend on a regular basis. It’s part of my dream for my “future home.” :)

  • Stout_Sojourner

    I love that LOTR quote, and the idea of the last homely house. I’ve done my best to make my apartment welcoming and we’ve had several long-term visitors.  Good post.

  • Abbas_princess

    I love your last paragraph… or last two sentences, whatever.  I think I’ll aim for that a little more as well.  The perfect house is never going to happen.

  • jennipenar

    I like this post very much. In my personal opinion, I think it more engaging than the previous post. But I am also a Tolkien fan as well, and that may have tipped the scales. They must have turned you down because you come across as incredibly intelligent, and we all know that writing has to be dumbed down for the masses these days… *rolls eyes, sighs* I wish they would have chosen you.

  • daniellehanley

    I like this post a lot! What a great goal to have.

    Did you grow up in a “perfect” house? I did. (Except for my room and my brother’s.) It took me a while to realize that the places I enjoyed being weren’t always perfect, but the company was the attraction.

  • hannahbarton

    I like long visits. Someday I will invite your whole family (whatever that may entail at that point in time) to come and stay at my house for a long time. Like, forever or something.

  • Story_singer

    The line I’ve heard most often (that I want connected to my home) is the idea of home as a refuge: “A place of peace.”

    This is most easily accomplished (technically speaking, not real-life speaking) by preventing clutter. For me and my husband, both, clear space– floors, counter-/desk-/dresser-tops– conveys an inordinate amount of peace.

    Annoying, really, how infrequently we can enjoy that source of peace :p

    Amazing how tired I am lately, considering how little I’m moving around, especially. Official due-date, Becky, is May 10th. I agree the whole idea of a due date is a bit ludicrous… I ran across a group of women on a message board who all admitted to giving out dates later than they had themselves, because they all expected harassment and questions to begin two weeks before the child was “due.”

  • mmmattress

    I want to help you make our house that way; it IS important.

  • TheRealNeb

    That’s awesome. Rachel and I have talked about doing a bed-and-breakfast type ministry before too…and I had thought it an original idea, but at least it’s still a good one. Making a house that way is so little about the house and so much about the people, that’s why I can attest that you and Matthew have succeeded in a lot of ways. Besides, with the constant coffee brewing you always have a “…cure for weariness.”

  • Nyceaspice

    Well, at least with your current job status, you will always be set with the perfect FURNITURE for your home. ;-)

  • trinisity

    Yes, this one sounded a lot more like you, I think it must be how you tied the beginning to the end.

  • curlybecca

    Were/are you in North Carolina? I wish I could come see you. I like the rain though. :)

  • arohanui24

    Where in NC did you live?  This weekend was my friends wedding and it was OUTSIDE.  Well, as typical NC mountain weather,  it was soooo cold, overcast and the wind was ripping right through us.  The day before it was sunny and beautiful.  But, that’s typical for here.  I’ve grown up here, so I understand about the shorts and a tank or jeans and a sweatshirt???  That’s spring!

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