I like old houses. They are intriguing.
Do you know the kind of houses that I am talking about? The kinds that are vacant, varying stages of repair. Some have been refurbished, others are just a shell of what once was, barely holding together. You wonder how much longer it can stand before finally letting go. I’m referring to the old houses that you look at and think, “Wow! In its day, I bet that was an AWESOME house.”
Not only are they fun to photograph and walk through, but sometimes I find myself just staring through the old windows and wondering…
Who used to live here? Not just the family name, but WHO were they?
Did the mother and father ever sit in rockers on the front porch, and study their children as they played in the evenings, chasing fireflies and pushing one another on the swing? Did they discuss the future? Did they dream about what their children would become?
Did the family have a lot of kids?
Did the mom hand-wash clothes for a family of three or was her clothesline full of linens from varying stages of childhood? Did she scrub away her worries, along with dirt and stains, on a washboard as she tirelessly worked her fingers “to the bone,” a baby clinging to her skirts?
Did the kids help in the morning with chores before walking to school? Perhaps they didn’t attend school because their father needed their help on the farm. What kind of education did they receive?
Was the family awakened every morning at dawn to the sound of a rooster crowing, announcing that it was time to collect eggs and milk the dairy cow before tending to the rest of the duties on the farm? Or, did the dad work in town? Maybe he wasn’t a farmer. Maybe he was a doctor and had to make frequent house calls to other old houses.
Did the ears of that house always hear kind, loving words and bedtime prayers, or were there also struggles and conflict? Were the floors ever walked endlessly on sleepless nights, filled with worry over war, disease, death? How many tears did that old house see shed?
Did the family gather for meetings around the dining table? Did they say grace before each meal?
What did their mother cook? Did the daughters have a role in the meal preparations? Did the family have plenty to eat or were there days when they lacked a meat to go with their homegrown vegetables? Was the kitchen regularly rich with the smells of homemade bread and jams?
Did they travel to “town” to shop at the mercantile when supplies were running low? Was their wagon big enough to hold the whole family or did just a select few get to experience the adventure? Did they make a whole day of the trips into town as the mom studied the laces and linens? How long did the children stare, hungrily, at the candy in the candy jars? Oh, if they only had a dime.
What types of traditions did that house witness? Did the family celebrate holidays? Did they search tirelessly for a Christmas tree for the father to chop down? Did they run and jump and sing as, together, they dragged it back to their home to place in the corner of the warm, cozy kitchen? Was a fire always burning in the fireplace? Who woke during the night to stoke it, keep it alive? Dad? Mom? An older child? Did they hang stockings around the fire? Were the stockings hand-knitted by the mother as the family sang carols and drank warm cider? Did they prepare and store the cider from apples that grew on the tree down by the creek or did it come from a friend in town? What kind of gifts did the children receive on Christmas morning? Were they content with little or did they yearn for more?
Did the family have a bond that stood the test of time like the walls of that old house? Did they stick together “through the thick and thin?”
What kind of family made that house a home?
Are they still around? I mean, the house is solid, well framed, good foundation. Does the family have that?
How many generations have passed since that house was inhabited?
Why did they leave? Where did they go?
Do they still have their traditions?
Do they still meet for holidays?
If they do, do they talk about that old house?
Like the shell, still standing, does the family still hold a tight bond?
I wonder if my family will…
Will my kids come back? Will they continue to visit for holidays and special occasions?
Did I instill in them a sense of belonging, unity? Will they yearn to return to me? Do they know that no matter how far they travel in this wide world, they are a part of my heart and always will be? The part that is them will only grow and grow and grow as their family extends…
When my house in just a shell, I want people to look and say, “Wow! That house must have been awesome.” I want them to feel the memories and know the love that used to live inside the walls.
When they see my chimney standing, will they know the tender care that went into the fires that burned there? Those fires roasted marshmallows and toasted bums after a long time playing in the snow.
When people look through my windows 100 years from now, will they see a shadow of love so strong that it can’t be erased?