The Picnic Basket

My children had never “lived in” a funeral home prior to our move to Andover, New York in 2003.

At the time, I didn’t consider what a transition that would be for them.  Suddenly we were going to have to share our house with a lot of people on a regular basis. When we first took occupancy, our personal space was only somewhat separated from the funeral space. There was no basement living space at the time. The only access to our upstairs bedrooms and the “TV room” was via the stairway inside the funeral home space.

To complicate matters, our private bathroom was upstairs. The funeral home restroom was in a very public and awkward location for the children to access.

It is not unusual for arrangements to include calling hours in the afternoon, calling hours in the evening, and then an actual service the next day. In light of this pattern of events, it became apparent that we were going to have a bit of a problem. At the time, I was homeschooling all four of our children which meant that they were home all day. So the question became, “Where are the kids going to be during all these events?”

As I have never centered our living room around an entertainment center, changing the purpose of our living room just didn’t appeal to me. Quite frankly, the “living room” was pretty small at the time, given that the majority of the space was being used for home school!

But, I could have placed an entertainment center there and somewhat solved the problem. (The bathroom issue still remained.) The complication with doing that was that when these events were not happening, our living space would be centered around an entertainment center. At the time, we were running in the neighborhood of 35 calls each year. So for conflicts of 70 or less days each year, did I really want the TV in the living room? I decided “no.”

With the configuration of the house at the time, sound from the TV was going to be a huge consideration. Having a TV in the living room just was not going to work. So, our kids were going to have to bear the burden of being inconvenienced by remaining upstairs during calling hours and funeral services.

After the first “set” of calling hours, they emerged from the TV area all in one piece, but “hungry.” Of course, if you’re watching a movie, you just have to have a snack! I’m sure they took something up with them at the beginning. But it probably just wasn’t exactly what they thought they wanted. Anyway, it became apparent for several reasons that they needed to have access to the kitchen and living room.

So, we came up with a “plan.” The kids would stay upstairs during all the aforementioned services. They were allowed a certain number of “trips through” the funeral home during each set of services. In order to go through, they had to be fully dressed, including shoes and socks, in presentable clothing, their bodies clean, and their hair brushed. Anyone who did not meet the criteria could not go through.

So, over time what we saw develop was this … our kids would set up camp in the upstairs portion of the house. They spent their time tinkering, reading, or watching a video. Occasionally, if a person watched closely, you could see a cute little preteen coming down the stairs making his or her way to the private portion of the building. After awhile, you would see that same person on a return trip with a picnic basket in hand! (Their idea, not mine!)

If my memory serves me correctly, it was usually our oldest daughter who made the food run for the whole group. But I know that each of them made some “trips through” over time.

Bud began the renovations on the Andover building in the Spring of 2003, so this format didn’t last indefinitely. While it was inconvenient for the kids, I think it was a good experience for them. And the memory is a good one for me as I think about seeing one of my smiling kiddies walking softly down the stairs and moving with consideration through the people visiting that day.

I don’t remember my children ever once complaining about the plan or the fact that they had to alter their lives for other people for a few hours. One could look at it on the surface and simply call it an inconvenience. In our house it’s just the way it was. And in my mind, it was a built in opportunity to develop poise and thoughtfulness of others.

So I’ll take a moment now and thank my children for their cooperation with “the plan.”


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