Changing ownership

shivelys-corner-smallThe house down the road is selling.

It’s a mighty house. An old, square, brick Sears-style house that has had several generations of the same family inhabit it for many, many years. It’s a home that’s been cared for, its yard pruned, its door decorated. It has been loved.

So, last Saturday when the auction crowd arrived to strip the house of its contents, I was sad. I was sad for the house. And sad for the gray-haired couple that  didn’t have children in the area to take over the family farmstead. But the couple doesn’t want sympathy. They are embarking on a new journey together – downsizing, shedding the responsibility and hard work of home ownership. This is their “sailing off into the sunset.” And they want folks to be happy for them. So I will be.

But the house. I was sad for the house.

Not long ago, my family and I  attended a family reunion on the other side of the state. The side with all the hills. On the way, we turned down a narrow country road to go past “the home place.”  The farm where my mother was raised, where my earliest childhood farm memories happened. As we drove by, I begged my husband to stop so I could take it all in. (That’s code for: snap a few pictures.  He knows that. We’ve been married 24 years.)


The house had changed dramatically. It had been remodeled, added to. But the barn stood exactly as I remembered. Suddenly, I was four years old, following my Uncle Marc out the kitchen door with a pan of kitchen scraps for the pigs. “SOO-EEE!”  he taught this city kid to yell and then laughed when I did it with such confidence.


Apparently it’s not okay to creep up on people’s homes and take pictures. Apparently, they will come out of their house to see what you’re up to. Hmm. Hadn’t thought about that.

A vanload of flatlanders on their way to a family reunion armed with lawn chairs and casseroles must have appeared harmless enough to these homeowners. They took us on a tour of my childhood.  In the  main part of the house, I could picture everything. The kitchen where my mom bathed my sister in the sink. The dining room where I learned how to set a table. The upstairs that still shows up in my dreams from time to time.

Along with the old, we were introduced to the new. New rooms indoors, a new play area outdoors. And a most unusual tree house. Father and son had merged talent and imagination to build not only the tree house, but the tree itself!  With a welded trunk and metal leaves, it looked like something from a futuristic fairy tale.

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The family’s young son took me to meet the ducks while the goat watched suspiciously.

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It turns out Grandma’s house has a had a happy life since it left our family. It still has a family. And it still has a boy.

Before we left, I gave my new young friend a book.  I signed it to “the boy who is lucky to grow up on my grandma’s farm.”

And the house down the road from me?

Well, in a few short weeks, a new family is moving in. With a little boy. And a little girl. Those are two lucky kids.

And that’s one lucky house.

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4 comments on “Changing ownership”

  1. Laughing Librarian

    Wonderful. I often wish my own childhood home would have that kind of swan song when my mother someday decides she no longer wants or can live in it. Re-inhabited by another family who will love all of its nooks and crannies and appreciate all the care that went into the hundred-year old house as it made a home for our family of seven…that would be a very, very good thing.

  2. Melanie

    Part of the purpose of our recent time in the Willshire area was to visit my Grandparents’ homeplace in Hoaglin Township. They are long gone and the house has not been treated favorably by its most recent renters. My mom, sister and I had mixed feelings about seeing the house. We wanted to retain the memories of our parents/grandparents in that house and not the changes that had been made since their passing. In the end, we decided to go into the house. It turned out ok. It’s not the same but it is still an old farm house and we love that. We reminisced and laughed and explored (like my Grandma would never let us do) the secret, storage rooms and nooks and crannies. My cousin will now assume stewardship of the house and barn. No one will live in the house (for the immediate time being, anyway) but we know that it will be loved and cared for and visited by someone who loves it… someone who has many happy memories just as we do.

    • Michelle

      It’s always a mixed bag of emotions when we revisit childhood dwellings, isn’t it, Melanie? How wonderful that your grandparents’ home is still in the family, even if it remains empty for now.

  3. Marcia Hillberry

    I loved this and will pass it on to my daughters. Thanks for sharing.

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