July 3, 2008 · Updated 1:27 PM
"It happens this time every year, this feeling like I need to spring clean in the dead of winter. After 11 Januarys of Pacific Northwest weather I understand the feeling and I hunker down, cook like crazy and clean.So it was with not a small amount of frustration that I surveyed my great room this weekend and wondered how I would shovel out this clutter. With kids not willing to spend much time outside, they move their passions to inside pursuits: video games. Card playing. Burning new songs off Napster and onto CDs. Snacking. Listening to music.The voices get louder as the day progresses. The piano gets pounded. And during those afternoons, when we have all been inside together, I begin to pray for quiet and peace and patience.With a cup of coffee and a spirit of organization, prayed for earlier in the day, I began to pick up the stray puzzle pieces from under the couch and reorganize the game closet. Not only would I feel better organized, I reasoned, but I would prevent injury from a cascade of game boxes that would surely come down onto the head of the next person to open the bifold doors.And something quite wonderful and surprising happened. A warm, soothing stream of memories lit up the room as I opened classic American games to replace stray pieces and throw away used score sheets. The kids picked up on the mood and sat in among the piles to listen.It became Mom's We Always afternoon.Grab that domino and stick it into the bone pile, I told my son Daniel as we moved onto our tummies for a quick game of chicken foot. We were supposed to be cleaning up, I was reminded by a slightly annoyed 9-year-old, but the lure of a quick and satisfying game was too much for the both of us.And so was the temptation to tell a story about the way dominoes brought a sense of closeness to elderly Midwestern farmers and a teen-ager from Southern California. It is a treasured memory I have of sitting at a kitchen table, eating blackberry cobbler baked by Grandma, and playing dominoes with my grandparents. There were many games played over a 20-year period, and Grandpa most always won.A pile of playing cards brought on two Always stories. The first took me back to those endless and frustrating games of war with my younger brother in the back seat of my childhood family's station wagon. The second beckoned laughter as I recalled the many hand-slapping games of double solitare played with my sixth grade teacher, with whom I still pay cards all these years later when we see each other.And the Tripoly box. It brought on a flood of Always stories. We always played Tripoly during vacation times spent at Camp Nelson up in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. It was always snowing outside and the lure of a snowy incline invariably took us away from Tripoly and outside for a few toboggan runs down the hill. My mother always made snow ice cream. And my dad always insisted on making a snow couple. Equal rights, you know!I wonder what kind of Always stories our children will tell. Will they be stories filled with warmth and love, solidarity and commitment? Will the stories feed them years from now when life feels gray and cluttered?And are we aware how important it is to design - and express - always attitudes? I will always love you no matter what. I will always be glad you are my child. Or friend. Or spouse. Or sibling. I will always pray for you because God always listens and responds. My car door will always be open should you decide to join us for worship. I am always as close as a phone call away.Always. It is liberating. Sunny. Clarifying. And I am smiling. "