Monday, October 12, 2009

The Life Of A House

Early on in life I realized how many vacant houses and sheds scattered the landscape. Some I noticed still had curtains at the windows and even crockery in the overgrown front yard. Standing in a derelict state still wearing the signs that someone had just walked away never looking back. 

My great-grandfather's homestead was located in the middle of his farm acreage. My son and I decided some years back that we wanted to find the old house. We parked along the road, walked through the fields and over a rickety bridge spanning a raging creek. Finally, we approached to site and saw no house. Dejectedly, we debated our next move. As we did, a huge, bear-like ground hog looked down on us from a rise. It then dawned on me that we were standing where the barn once stood. The ground hog stood where the entrance to the barn had been. Excited as any explorers, we quickly climbed the hill. Still no house. Then I noticed the orange tiger lillies scattered at the end of the field. I knew that someone at sometime had planted them. Indeed someone had. My great-grandmother.

The old two-story brick house had burned. No one bothered to rebuild it yet the brick still remained holding the memory of the children who were raised there. We walked through the rubble from room to room. This house held a story of deceit and death. Of a stern father and two families of children. It was the home of my grandfather. We loaded old bricks into our jackets and carried them out on our backs. Remnants of our past.

Here in Oregon I still see empty houses. I wonder 'whose dream were you little house'? Who pounded your nails, cleared your land, who scrimped and saved to build your walls? Were you a retirement home or the dream or newlyweds beginning a future with each strike of the hammer, each stroke of the brush.

First Christmases, new babies, fresh wallpaper, tiny handprints on new windowpanes. What memories filled those walls? Where did you go, you builders of this house? Why did you leave? How many came after you were gone? Was someone here for a long time layering wallpaper upon wallpaper, paint over paint? Or were there many families? More recently who painted the walls red and maybe yellow? Did this home hold dreams or demons? Were the windows covered to hide the secrets?

Where did you go? Do you perhaps reside in an even smaller place with bars on  the windows? With locks on the doors? Were you left behind, little house, when the death visited your door? What memories filled these walls? What was your life little house? Do you know you are forgotten?

Vacant houses. Houses unloved. So many stories live in the lifetime of a house. I grew up in a house that was built of hand-hewn logs later covered with wood siding. Native Americans lived by the creek that ran through the farm when this house was built. What stories were hidden in those wall? Who were the people of our land? We were just visitors there. Someone new moves in and what was once new is new once more.

The life of a house.

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