Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Chicken House

A strange thing has happened at our old house. First, the landlord put new siding on. This is a miracle. Trust me. We had that house painted several times over the past 30 years and it never stuck. We had professionals come and look at it and make sure the painter had taken off the old paint right, prepped correctly, and used the best paint a large name-brand company can sell. No go. Within a few months, large chunks of paint would literally fall off the side. The landlord kept bemoaning the fact it needed painting and would procrastinate so years would pass and our house would look like some dump, on it’s last legs. It didn’t matter that we planted trees and flower beds and kept the large (5 acre) lawn mowed to perfection, because when the house has big chunks of paint missing, it just loses the effect somehow.

Several months ago, one of the landlords’ passed away and the family decided to hire a farm manager. For the most part, farmers will tell you those words “farm manager” are something that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. I don’t know how we got so lucky, but this one actually has a brain in his head and some logic in his bones. Since he’s taken over, things have run much more smoothly and things, such as the siding, are getting done – instead of just being talked about.

Now, phase two has taken place. The old chicken house and out-house are history, burned, buried, and covered with dirt… no longer a fixture of this farm. If buildings can hold memories, these two held a few…

The innumerable spoons and bowls that were carried and left on the hay bales in the chicken house by two little girls who were cat-crazy and who would take their treats out to share with the herd of farm cats that nested there.

The old tires that seemed to breed there… from things like old tractors, cars that drag-raced on the road to cars that raced on an oval track. Four-wheeler tires, odyssey tires. Each tire has a story, if only you could hear it.

The boxes of books relegated to sitting in dusty boxes, turning slowly to misshapen, mildewed blobs when windows blew out in a storm and the rains came in.

The boxes filled with old cooking pans, dishes, and household items that moved home once (or twice) with returning children who then decided they didn’t need or want those items after all.

The great spools of rope that lived out their last years in the old out-house. (Long-since unused.) A crack in the door allowing a home for wasps and an occasional lost kitten.

The little red plastic chair that sat in the bushes between the two… Almost hidden by the overgrowth, the ghost of a child whispering secrets to another in their shadows.

The pets that were buried between them in the flowerbed. May they rest in peace wherever they are now, buried far below where a saddened heart could dig with a measly spade.

I am a product of memory. I tie that house, those buildings to my life with my family. It’s where my children were raised – two of them born there, the other two since the eldest was four. It’s where my husband lived since he was seven. It’s where I’d lived the longest of my whole entire life after having moved several times as a child and young adult. As much as I love (like a lot) my new house, a big piece of my heart lives in that little old house. I’m not sure how I would have reacted if we’d had to move and our son had not been living there… if I’d had to leave it to strangers. I think houses imprint with the people who live there, and a shadow of me lives there today.

I miss seeing the chicken house, the out-house. Just as I missed the barn for years when they took it down, many years ago. In many ways it looks better, but in my heart there will always be a little hole where they, and the memories they invoke, live.