Saturday, November 29, 2008

Our Version of "This Old House"

The farm where we grew up is ten miles from town and so on Thanksgiving my brothers, who had driven a considerable distance to be there, suggested a trip to the "old house". We gathered most of us (siblings and families) into three cars and headed to the farm, arriving at the "old house" after negotiating the long dirt driveway.

The house is falling down. It is possible to stand in any room and see blue sky through the ceiling and attic and roof. Plaster is completely missing in some corners. Holes in the floor show where some animal has housed itself underneath the structure. Swallowtails had built nests in several corners and on light fixtures.

Our children were fascinated as only children can be, moving from room to room, peering in and out of windows. There was much exclaiming and laughter.

My Mom remained in the car. Seeing the old house in this condition is depressing to her. And it would be dangerous for her to negotiate the brush and the trash underfoot.

For us, however, her five remaining children, the visits back to the "old house" allow us to jog memories. We treaded carefully through trash and debris as we moved from room to room. We remembered where the old black and white television had entertained us Saturday mornings with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Cisco Kid, the Lone Ranger, and Lash LaRue. We looked out the window where on school mornings we had used binoculars to search for the coming of the school bus so we could be ready outside when the bus finally arrived. We know every inch of this house and memories flooded in as we checked this corner and that. We paused for a photo and later I notice that dust motes danced in the camera's flash. Someone with false spiritual understanding might view this photo and assert there were ghosts in the room. I, on the other hand, can recognize dust motes when I see them and have no such ghostly delusions. There will be no call to the Ghostbusters today! (She said with a smile.)

My brothers, who are now a bit on the 'old man' side, avidly checked every corner of the tiny bedroom they shared. There had been two sets of bunk beds in that room and later on, Grandpa's old oak roll-top desk sat in one corner. The room was an add-on and my brothers searched the broken walls and sagging ceiling to find the almost non-existent insulation that the contractor had assured us was there. (The house was heated with a two-burner oil stove in the dining room and heat seldom reached this room.) They regaled each other with stories of how cold that room was during the winter and how cold the beds were. One laughed about how he had brought a friend home from school in the dead of winter...a friend whose home was warm...and how the friend, after watching Brother jump into his ice-cold bed said, "If you can do it, so can I". Brother laughed uproariously at his friend's freezing experience and probable lack of sleep.

We looked for "family artifacts"...remembrances of our childhood...little things that we could pick up and take home. I found one Lincoln log. My brother, the Navy vet, spotted the "Travel NAVY" sticker that he had applied to the faux wood paneling above his bunk bed nearly 50 years ago. (Click on the window photo for a closer view.) He had joined the Navy fresh out of high school during the midst of the Vietnam conflict, serving on the USS Kearsarge off the coast of Vietnam. He's proud of his Navy days.

I'm proud of him and of all my siblings. And I love the members of our next generation, my daughter, my nieces and nephews. They are precious to me and I thank God for all of them.


Paula said...

That sounds like a wonderful trip down memory lane. So glad you were able to spend time with your siblings.

cinnamongirl93 said...

Hmmmm. I love the story you told today. I could almost see it all as you described it. It's a shame that the house is abandoned. I'm sure in it's day it was a warm and inviting.
Thank you for sharing.

Angoraknitter said...

I always wonder how those old houses come to be as they are. I got to drive by an old family home (more like a little cabin) once, but someone was living in it, so couldn't go inside. Your old house looks really neat.

Sheri said...

Wonderful story.
At least there was something to see. Both my grandparents farm houses have been torn down ,nothing there now but open fields. With my parents farm the old out buildings are still there and in working condition but the old farm house has been replaced with a modern tri-level. Sad but somehow comforting that there's a family living on the land and children running in the pasture and playing in woods along the Little Sioux River.