Have a Long Winter's Nap. Old House!

This morning we left our cozy, small retirement home in town and headed for the country; we closed up the farm house for the winter. The old house had come alive again and provided a lot of entertainment this past spring and summer. We had a crazy fun with many family and friend gatherings; some lasted overnight. In a final tribute to autumn, we celebrated with fifty or so church youths as they bumped along in a wooden wagon on a hayride, toasted everything over a roaring bonfire and took part in a murder mystery theater. It was a romping packed season and at times a respite from a hurried, hurtful world.

It was time to tuck it away for the year and let it rest shrouded in the crystal toned silence that bathed the rooms. I felt a quietness that rang as clear as chimes of brass as I began my tour, checking things. The music of a more than a century of memories played tag with the dust motes hanging in the cool, stilled air. Was that a footstep on the wooden stair? Did I hear a pan rattling in the dark, far reaches of the kitchen? A faint echo of a remembered and loved voice teased my ears and an unsettled, uncanny, longing for days gone by filled my heart.

The air was thick with the presence of strong personalities of the former inhabitants, my husband's, and children's recent and ancient ancestors. As I, the interloper, closed the front door for one last time, I sense a movement from the corner of my eye; something was reflected in the wavy door glass. As I jerked the latch in a startled manner, the movement receded into the dim tattered curtains.

I'm out of here! Not really, I knew they were ghost, not of the phantom ilk, but of the kind brought to life by a deluge of recollections.

Today, it was rather nice on the hill. The sun was warming, but there was a bite in the western wind that always blows here. My husband worked in the basement while I wandered around outside as the memories flooded back.

Fifty-six years ago when my husband served a tour of duty in Germany, I lived here, off and on, with his parents and two (at the time) un-married sisters. I loved it. It was a big country farmhouse filled with laughter, food, a few mice, barn cat and pet dog. When my husband returned home, the family moved to their new house, and this, for a while, became ours.

Our first child was born at this time. Last summer my daughter and I peeled his nursery room wall down until we could see portions of the paper I had put up with the help of Nancy (the elderly maiden aunt) the night before he was born 01/12/1957. The paper was covered with little yellow ducks and blue flowers; I wept over it.

This was a tiny room off of the enclosed side porch. In the distant past, it belonged to Uncle Harry, an orphan child of freed slaves. He lived with the family as a youngster in the 1890s until he married. My daughter has always heard of Uncle Harry, as well as Uncle Ollie the hermit, and other less colorful great-uncles, only this past summer did she realize Uncle Harry was not actually kin.

Uncle Harry became a famous "local" in the area. As a good Christian man, he was fond of quoting a visiting preacher called Dr. Lee. "Look at those piano keys you can play the white keys or the black, but if you want to make 'harmony' you have to play them together." A "truism," that continues to live on.

I circled the house as I always do as I leave. I walked near the spot in the side yard where the cherry tree grew those many years ago. With my inner eye in overload I could see the fire pit, (barbecue chicken, bloody steak, and rare hamburgers). "Well done for me please!" I visualized the picnic table on top of which I would place a sturdy ladder-back chair and climb -my pregnant self- up, have a seat, and eat all the cherries I could reach until I was filled.

I also learned to crave fresh strawberries and real cream in my cereal. I ate it at the kitchen table that sat right in the middle of the room. Being a city girl, I had to put my mind in neutral concerning cows and milk. I preferred my milk from a glass bottle with a little cardboard stopper. That changed when I first tasted fresh yellow cream. The change became permanent when I discovered thick cream could be whipped with a fork, when put in a cool crock with sugar. I was nineteen at the time. I gained fourty pounds with this first child, all the while I was hand fed by my sweet mother-in-law!

Rounding the corner, I shielded my eyes my eyes as I looked over the back fields to a neighboring farm. I could faintly see the old bomb shelter entry-way the farmer had built in the sixties, getting ready, as did so many for the "Big bang." There is a sign that hangs on the door it reads, "If you enter you will die!" I heard they are going to open it soon. No one has been in there in the years since his death. His son said at one time his dad had a shotgun that was rigged to go off if anyone attempted to open it! This, from a kind old man who kept pet fish in a small stocked fishing lake, he called them by name, fed them by hand and petted them.

One midnight I had walked those stubby fields I was staring at so piercingly. It was during the same first pregnancy, at this time I was further along, about six or so months. My husband, my best friend, (who gave birth twelve days before I did with a new-years baby) and her husband were going to shivaree (make loud noises, climb on the house, rattle windows, yell, go in, and eat!) the son of the fish farmer, and his bride. Fun huh? We crammed in a pick-up truck for about a mile and walked half a mile the rest of the way, climbing fences, and wading (make that "waddling") ditches…ah youth!

I rememberd the Halloween party we had when I used a pumpkin for a punch bowl, and everyone drank it anyway! The goats that were startled in the night and ran in many circles around the house clomping over the wooden front porch every time, this city girl almost packed up and left. Sleeping in the yard on an ancient quilt and feather pillows with the stars we owned shining so brightly that my eyes couldn't stay closed, as dreams of the future settled down warmly around us.

I had come full circle around the house, and I heard the van motor revving. It was time to go; I was glad the sun was shining as we left. It will be a cold, long winter on the Hideaway Farm, perched on its own hill as it hides in the shadow of the two taller Spice knobs. The wind that ever blows will find the chimneys, the loose windows, the cracks under the outer doors, and stir afresh memories that are waiting to draw us back again. Memories; to be mused over, cherished, and perhaps re-lived.

As I closed the van door I heard a sound from the treetops, or was it the barn, a wild trill of laughter. Maybe it escaped the clutches of the muddy creek bank and flew up the hill in the throat of a soft brown sparrow looking for a chimney in which to spend the winter…maybe.

"Thank you Lord, for good memories bringing pleasure, the bad memories causing growth and for the special memory of Your presence, ever near."

"Amen!" .


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