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