Saturday, May 27, 2006

Homowebma-what?

Let me see if I can define for you this enigmatic word that means much to my family: Homowebmape (ho-mo-WEB-mah-pee). This word is formed from the first few letters of: Holmlunds, Moffats, Webbers, Malenas, Peters. Last weekend, these families assembled in the tiny town of Brownfield, Alberta for our eleventh annual weekend together. I believe the original purpose behind these meetings was a simple reunion of families, who all used to live in Saskatoon, but are now spread over three provinces. Our parents have been good friends for a long time. But at some unknown point in our collective history, these get-togethers morphed into something much more than a reunion, the one-of-a-kind phenomenon we now affectionately call Homowebmape.

The location is the Webber farmhouse, which is large enough to comfortably contain us all - twenty-two of us this year. The dads and older boys (and any other interested parties) usually have some sort of project for the weekend – last year it was building a chicken coop, and this year it was a gazebo. The women enjoy cooking and talking and walking and watching their men work. The kids (and I include myself in this group!) mostly play: kick-the-can, kickball, card games, four-on-the-couch, playing music together… it’s pretty laidback. The adults all sit together at one table for meals, and the kids fill up another long table. We all sing before meals, and laugh all the way through meals. At night, each couple gets a room to themselves, the girls sleep in the office upstairs, and the boys sleep downstairs. It's sad though - our boys' and girls' dorms are getting less and less crowded, because people keep getting married – we’ll be up to three married off now that Nick and Sarah are engaged (and adding a third generation next year, once Jordan and Becky’s baby is born!) But as Rachel says on her blog, there are still many of us left - if you want any information on how to "marry in" to this wonderful group, let us know.

The most memorable parts of the weekend are the evenings. We usually end up sitting in the living room all together, sharing ourselves, saying really important things that never get said. Often we’ll grill newcomers like boyfriends and fiancĂ©es with our best questions – an intimidating but fruitful experience, just ask Duane, Becky and Nick. You can also expect an interview if you were baptized in the past year. Sometimes we’ll go around the circle and share our high and low points of the year. One time I remember the parents had all prepared their best advice for all the kids, and we listened to them share it. One year we picked a theme Bible verse and theme song that best represented each family. The climax, of course, is the yearly “pass the spoon” night. Basically, everyone gets their turn with the wooden spoon, and you can do something, ask someone else to do something, ask someone a question, share something with the group – the possibilities are endless. Someone ends up singing, Daniel always gets to play his latest sax song, Bob plays a Bruce Cockburn or John Denver song on the guitar. James always gets asked to read us all a story. He usually reads stories by Patrick McManus, and the best part is when his voice gets all wavery because he’s trying so hard to keep his serious tone and not laugh at what’s coming up. There’s always a good mix of laughter and tears, and through the years, I’ve become more and more comfortable with both.

You may think this sounds like a sentimental, sappy, traditional, stereotypical, straight-off-of-7th-Heaven-or-some-50s-show, family values type of thing… I guess you’d be right. In a way it feels very foreign from real life, like a TV show, but in a far more important way it feels like the core of real life. To me, it feels like heaven - not like the Philadelphia cream cheese commercials mean it, but in the purest biblical sense. It’s a place where I feel unconditionally loved for being myself, a safe place to be vulnerable. I think it’s the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing true intergenerational Christian community, surrounded by twenty-one other imperfect but growing lovers of God. The four adult couples are the giants in whose footsteps I walk, the spouses and parents I want to become, four unique expressions of godly family-builders. This place, where talking about deep-down hopes and fears and discussing relationships with God and laying hands and praying for people seem as natural as breathing – this is where I want to live. Every year I’m reminded of who I want to become, and the mere Christianity, the everyday living and breathing God, the vulnerable, truth-telling love I want to live out loud, not just on a farm in the middle of nowhere, but in downtown Vancouver and not-so-downtown Saskatoon. I do not take the blessing of Homowebmape for granted.

This year’s Homowebmape was as wonderful as any I can remember, mostly because Christine joined us this year, which made it ten times better, at least for me. The weekend included a newborn puppy, a night under the stars sleeping on the trampoline with some of the other girls, stealing black jujubes from the huge Costco bag the Moffats always bring, and a surprise bridal shower we threw for Sarah and Nick (I finally got a picture of them!). I tried out a couple of new board games: Settlers of Catan (I discovered that I am highly lacking in ‘settling’ skills) and Whonu. I ate some of the deer and moose that Jordan shot. Other highlights included a barn swallow flying into tiny Brownfield Baptist church at the beginning of the Sunday morning service, celebrating my sister Rachel’s 18th birthday, and re-reading “Ender’s Game”, a favorite childhood book.

It was also a chance to rediscover the joys of driving across the prairies. As much as I sometimes wish there were a few mountains to punctuate the scene, being able to see 360 degrees of sky is pretty darn breathtaking. Add a few aspen bluffs, some gentle hills, the geometric patterns of harvested fields, and a red-tailed hawk soaring above them, and you’ve got the picture. The large snowfall this winter left a lot of standing water in the ditches beside the highway, and I amused myself attempting to identify the ducks in these temporary ponds as we zoomed along to Brownfield Friday night. As I gazed out the window, trying to let all of this beauty sink in, Coldplay’s “Don’t Panic” came on my MP3 player. “We live in a beautiful world…” I found myself singing along with sincerity. Yeah we do, Chris Martin, yeah we do.

On the way back, Chris drove. Instead of scouting out ducks, like me, her passions in prairie driving are twofold: stopping to examine abandoned houses that lean at an impossibly diagonal angle, and driving through the classic prairie storm. We were able to do both on our trip home. We didn’t spend much time at the abandoned house, thankfully, because it was creeping me out and there was a bunch of bird poop everywhere. But we spent a lot of time in the storm, and it was great – you can see it coming a long way off, and you can smell the rain hang humid in the air, and then the clouds just encompass you, and the thunder shakes the car, and you spend the trip watching expectantly for every new flash of lightning. And hoping you won’t hydroplane on the road, which has been my secret fear since I learned about it in grade 10 driver’s ed. Generally, though, in the competition between beauty and fear, beauty won.

Until next year, Homowebmape! I wouldn’t miss you for the world.

7 comments:

Andrea said...

Beth. I always love it when my RSS feed includes a new post from you...

But really. This time you've outdone yourself.

Your description of the weekend was both lovely and inviting and vivid - AND thoughtful.

I miss you. Don't forget to come back to Vancouver okay?

Chapels miss you.

Faye said...

Dear Beth

My heart welled with deep emotion as I read your descrition of this, what is becoming a "sacred weekend". Thank you for capturing the history and present in such a descriptive way. I will have to keep a copy in my files, someday the following generations may want to know how this stange weekend began!

Thank you too for being so personal. I loved to hear your heart and cherish it in mine.

Love Faye

Jordan said...

I'll marry in, if that's cool with you. Brandon (my obvious first choice) probably won't work out, but maybe Rachel could be easily swayed. As long as nobody questions my motives when I'm holding that spoon, we'll be in the clear.

Rachel Malena said...

i dont whether or to be flattered or insulted?

Smaj said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Smaj said...

Beth. You're beautiful - and your words are inspiring.
I can't help but feel a little jealous about the ethereal nature of the Homowebmape experience... I think it's something I've been vaguely searching for my whole life.
I get slight hints of it when your family invites me for a meal, and the time that I joined you and Sparks on a trip through Brownfield.
Thank you for sharing this with the rest of us; I do look forward to Heaven, where I will no longer have to search.

In the meanwhile, I'm thankful enough for your friendship and your chronicles.

Anonymous said...

Hello! Maybe u dont remember me as its been a while, but Im headed home to edmonton after a week long trip with my family and google is my best entertainment. So I typed in Brownfield as I was reminiscing old baptist camp days and a wonderful holiday I got to spend with the webber family canoeing down the river. I was thrilled to come across ur blog Beth as I got to know u at the baptist camp and recognized ur beautiful smile in this pic that came up and led me to ur blog. My name is Leanne,, I grew up on a farm in Lacombe. If that sparks ur memory?

Its random that im sending this message but i wanted to say u are a wonderful writer and I see you have not made a blog entry in a long time. So cool for me to remember the wonderful Browns thru ur words as it was a defenite heavely experience to be surrounded by such godly wholsome people. Hope you are well, and would love it if u passed a hello onto the brown family for me next time u see em. Leanne