The Little Room


A Grady County Sunset

Oh, Lord, thou has searched me, and known me. Psalm 139:1

The Little Room of my childhood home, Stone Gables, was a portion of attic tucked under a sloping roof but accessible from the bedroom we called the East Room. Mamma called it her unsightly corner and kept a thin curtain over the opening, not only to cover her storage but also to hide an area of stone wall Daddy had roughed in but not finished when he was building the house. Though the entrance was low, there was plenty of space in the Little Room for my sister Suzanne and me and little nieces to play and we didn’t mind the storage boxes or the unfinished corner. In fact, we used both as part of our dolls’ world.

We made paper dolls from Sears and Ward’s catalogs, rows and rows of them. We built pasteboard box houses and cut out paper trees. Sometimes our dolls were in boarding school getting into mischief. Other times they were visiting each other’s houses having tea parties. Either way, the floor was scattered with our treasures, whether a whole village or only a campus. Our dolls all had names and personalities and they certainly didn’t want to be boxed up at the end of each playful day.

Mamma sometimes mildly scolded us for the mess we were making but then, as a mother of ten, she couldn’t be an active perfectionist. So usually as long as our tacky disorder was covered by the curtain she didn’t mind. But one day our untidiness was suddenly exposed to a special guest and Mamma’s embarrassment was keen.

Mrs. Eastham was from Virginia, a fact which meant to Mamma that she was part of the elite and elegant Old South, not someone who would cook turnip greens and fatback, as we did in Georgia, but who would wear white lace gloves while sipping mint tea. She wore beautiful dresses and always smelled delightful. Just watching her eat in her dainty manner was an experience. Mamma had warned us before she came to be on our very best behavior for Mrs. Eastham who was not only a friend but also our sister Jackie’s mother-in-law.

We didn’t play in the Little Room after Mrs. Eastham arrived. She occupied the East Room and we would have had to troop or sneak through her room to get to our treasures. The curtain stayed neatly closed every day. Until one day when several of us followed Mamma into the East Room to give our guest fresh linens. Our young niece decided to give Mrs. Eastham a closer look at her surroundings. Little Emily swept back the curtain and said proudly, “And this is our playroom.”

The sunlight reached every dark corner of that little unfinished attic room. Our wonderful paper village, our limp paper dolls fallen this way and that, a cracker box doll-size divan, an oatmeal box cradle, all became trash before our eyes. We’d never noticed before that one of Mamma’s storage boxes was sagging and split, even showing some of its contents because we had used it as a nice little seat. The whole place was quite a mess! Even the dust motes we usually playfully tried to catch were suddenly not so pretty. We saw our magical place through the eyes of Mrs. Eastham and our faces turned crimson. Mamma literally gasped as she snatched the curtain back in place.

We looked to see how Mrs. Eastham would react.

She smiled with beautiful enthusiasm as she exclaimed, “Oh, what a lovely, cozy spot! May I play, too?”

Mamma gently urged Mrs. Eastham to come downstairs for some fresh peach cobbler.

Suzanne and I looked at each other and grinned with a measure of deep relief. We had been “searched and known” and–we were still loved!

I think of that exposed, messy corner as I consider this first verse of Psalm 139. I have corners in my life that become messy, quite messy. Resentments build up. Jealousy stirs. “Why” questions spring up as difficulties get worse rather than better. My thoughts stray away from Jesus and turn to dismal possibilities. I’m selfish, rude, and unkind when I want to be just the opposite. All these feelings and thoughts could be compared to the untidy boxes and bits of paper or stacks of storage boxes in our Little Room. And–oh yes!–I have a lot of unfinished territory in my life.

Yet–God knows all this and loves me still! And if you have a messy “Little Room,” He loves you too. Will He just close the curtain on it or help us clean it up?

Lord, please forgive me for the mess I know you find in my life. Thank you that with your forgiveness comes also your perfect kindness in restoring me to a right relationship and setting my life in order.


1 Comment

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One response to “The Little Room

  1. Sandy Young

    Hi Brenda,
    Back in 1986 I wrote to you from California and received your gracious reply. I had read your wonderful book, Stone Gables, and was so excited that you were living in Cairo. ( I was born there in 1954.) I mentioned that I would like to visit your mother and you gave me her phone number.
    Several years later while visiting my mother in Crawfordville, Florida, we took a drive to north Georgia. We arrived at Stone Gables late in the day and were so happy to meet Eula. She let us take a quick look around the house and then we talked for a while. It was close to dusk and the picture that I took outside was not the best. However, it is a sweet memory of that very special visit.
    Anyway, I just finished re-reading your book for the 5th or 6th time and hoped that I could find you online. I was thrilled to stumble upon your blog!
    I have set aside your book to pass down to my granddaughters in the years to come. I want them to know about my Southern heritage, and what life was like all those years ago.
    Your post about the paper dolls brought back fond memories of cutting out and coloring clothes for my own paper dolls years ago.
    Is Pinedale still in your family?
    God has blessed many through your gift of writing. You were given a precious legacy of faith!


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