I traveled the road you see above from before I can remember, until the last time I did, in 2017. That was likely my last trip there, as there’s no longer a reason for me to visit. Unless I can figure out a way to procure one of the street signs. It has my name on it, after all.
This is the road I grew up on, with my house just about in the middle, and my grandparent’s farm all the way at the end. Once I was old enough to ride a bike, I would make the mile or so trek down there alone, to get away from the hot mess that was my childhood beneath my roof.
The house is no longer there. Once both of my grandparents passed away, it had to be sold, as no one of us could afford to buy everyone else’s shares out. Believe me when I tell you, I tried to find a way. My grandfather placed the land the house sat on, and 99 of the surrounding acres in The Nature Conservancy, so that it couldn’t be sold off in pieces and developed, which I’m thankful for; because that’s exactly what would have happened.
I have some greedy family members.
What hurts my heart, more than I can explain, is the people who ended up purchasing the 99 acres and the house, refuse us entrance. In the beginning, they said they would have no issue with it. After all, it’s been our family farm for over 70 years. All of my Dad’s siblings, and himself, grew up there. But thanks to a certain family member behaving like a complete ass, none of us are welcome there any longer.
Growing up, my first glimpse of this Civil War era home was like soul balm. I couldn’t have told you that then, I just knew that I could breathe easier, my always tight muscles would release their tension, and I could smile. I would throw my bike into the front yard, and immediately run to the barn.
The combined scent of Murphy’s Oil Soap, hay, sweet feed, and manure can still make me feel at home. There’s nothing like it in the world, especially for someone who grew up riding. Horses are unlike anything in this world. Their eyes are soulful, like they can see right through you, and understand that whatever you’re going through, in the end, it will be okay. And if it’s not, then it’s not the end.
My grandparent’s were outside people. During the day, it was rare for them not to be puttering around in a garden, barn, or one of the many buildings on the farm. By the time I came along, it was no longer a working farm, other than the horses. They had their many gardens, and my grandmother had a workshop where she refinished furniture when she felt like it. Mostly, the buildings were full of a lifetime of memories.
And I loved nothing more than nosing through each and every one of them.
I was always a curious child. My mother would tell you I was nosy. Being curious was discouraged at my house. Thankfully, it was not only encouraged at my grandparent’s, it was made an adventure. Nowhere was off limits. If I wanted to explore the attic, it was game on. My grandmother would dig through the standing wardrobe in the den, and we would don long sleeved flannel shirts, belonging to gods knew who, wrap our faces in scarves to ward off dust dinosaurs (they were that big), and stomp off to the attic.
I remember finding an old steamer trunk once. Filled with letters and clothing from my grandmother’s sister, Helen. She had brought kimono dresses back from a visit to Japan, and the letters were the correspondence between herself and my grandmother while she was gone. I don’t recall much about the letters, other than I thought it was really neat that they got along well enough to keep in touch for months at a time.
But the dresses. Oh my, they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen. Jewel tones unlike anything I was allowed to wear. And the fabric. Silky and soft, yet strong. I had to try them on. My grandmother obliged, of course.
Much to my surprise, they all fit. I asked if I could have them, and she said yes. I couldn’t believe I was allowed to own something so beautiful. I believe I was around 10 years old at the time, I do remember being in 5th grade. I was spending the night at their house, and had school the next day. I couldn’t wait to wear my new dress to school the next day.
Of course, being a 10 year old kid, I am positive the shoes I had to wear with this gorgeous kimono were somewhere along the lines of Keds. I’m also sure I didn’t care. I pranced around in that dress all day and no one could tell me a thing.
Until my mother came to pick me up from school.
She was HORRIFIED.
Apparently, I looked ridiculous. According to her, anyway. She ranted and raved all the way home about how she couldn’t believe my grandmother allowed me to go to school dressed like a tart. I couldn’t believe I looked like a dessert, and furthermore, couldn’t understand why that was a bad thing.
Story of my life when it came to my mother. Any time I dared to think something positive about myself, she came along quickly to tear it down.
My adventures with my grandparents seemed never ending. My grandfather got his fair share as well, though he was more into being a storyteller; and he was fantastic. As a WWII Veteran, he had plenty to tell, and could make a story about making a salami sandwich the most interesting thing you’d ever heard. I wish, to this day, that I’d written them down.
I often remember him telling me that he wished he had been a more attentive father. As a child, I couldn’t fathom what he meant. He paid attention to everything I said, listened like I was the Pope speaking to the masses. I couldn’t understand that Apple (as I called him) and Dad (to his kids) were two different people. Apple had long since retired, the year I was born actually, and had all the time in the world to cater to my every whim. Dad was a Naval officer, then a large business owner who also owned a farm; he had a wife and four children to raise and care for.
I hope, in the end, they both knew, that they did a great job as parents, with what they had to work with. And most of all, whether they realized it or not, they were more like parents to me than grandparents, and I’ll treasure every moment I had with them, always. My children hear the stories, see the pictures, and know that they come from some pretty awesome folks.