Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Farmhouse

Mark spotted it first, as we drove by on the way to look at another place. It was one of those beautiful old brick farmhouses, two-story, with a big front porch, decorative contrasting white brick trim and tall windows, arranged in threes and rounded at the top. There were several huge maple trees in the front yard. We instantly fell in love, and knew that this was the place to raise our children-Jon, 6, and Annie, 4. We spent the first night there in the living room in sleeping bags,with a cooler and a little tv. It felt a little like camping out. We wandered from room to room excitedly, wondering if we would ever be able to fill all of the rooms, accustomed as we were to our little rented ranch house. I will never forget how it felt to wake up there the next morning. From our bedroom window, we could see acres of blueberry bushes. I can still see their red branches against the snow in my mind. I have a wreath made of them hanging in my present home to remind me of them.
The house had a long history: a plaque set into the front wall announced the original owner's name and the date, 1884. We learned through relatives of this family that they had come from the Netherlands and built this house, raising seven children (two who died in childhood) and becoming the largest dairy farm in that area, bringing milk from house to house on a wagon, ladling it out to their customers into wooden buckets. One family member said that he remembered the day that the indoor plumbing was installed. Mark and I cherished all of these stories and felt lucky to be there, to extend the house's history as a new family. We worked hard, fixing it up. I rag-painted, stenciled, wallpapered, stained, scrubbed, sewed curtains and found antiques. Mark mowed, trimmed, weeded, repaired, shined up old brass hinges, fixed old doorknobs, rebuilt the old front porch. He built a treehouse and ladder for the kids. He made a sign for above the garage: OUR HOUSE IS A VERY, VERY, VERY FINE HOUSE, WITH TWO CATS IN THE YARD...." The kids settled into their own rooms and played in the yard and rode bikes and walked to the pond across the street and picked blueberries and rode bikes to Bill's Greenhouse and rode on the sled, pulled by Mark on the tractor, on the winter streets. They climbed the ladder to the tree house and huddled inside (until the ladder got stolen).
I remember still all of the places on the old wood floors that creaked, especially in the dining room, and I remember how the stairs sounded. The shelves in the closets and the kitchen cupboards were thick old wood. The kitchen counters were crafted of old wood. Mark refinished them and oiled them til they shone.
The glass in the windows had bubbles in it-old glass, made long ago. We are quite sure that there was a ghost upstairs-a woman, maybe watching over those sick children so long ago. We always scurried past that hallway, and it was years before we talked about it. The garage had old, old wood stored in it, and old bricks, and old glass bottles. There were the most beautiful lilac bushes in the backyard, and so many tall and stately evergreens in which the kids played and built forts. Annie climbed the tree by the garage and sat on the roof. Jon and his friend Joey played baseball. The basement had three rooms and was a scary, dark place that took some getting used to. I remember that musty smell.
One freezing February day, we started painting a mural on the grand old plaster wall that spanned the length of the back porch. We painted a picture of our house and the big maple tree in the front yard. The leaves of the tree are turning yellow and just beginning to fall. Our cat Fluffy is sitting on the branch. The beautiful old bricks are carefully painted, one by one. Our wonderful dog, Goldie, is watching over us all.
Somehow, it is that painting that looks the most true and real to me when I think about our life together there. There was this beautiful old place, and it somehow was waiting for us, and the grass was green and the trees were tall, and I know that our voices still ring in the walls like the mice that scurried there in the winter. I know that the love we shared there still warms those rooms, though we have been away for over a decade now. I close my eyes and I am right there, once again, always.


annie hagar said...

thanks, mom. i miss it so much sometimes. it's nice to remember it like this.

Jon said...

Just beautiful, mom. I had forgotten about the old wavy windows!

organicsyes said...

your beautiful story makes me weep...I wonder why?

Love reading your post, Claudia. Wondering if we do leave our ghosts, even while we continue to walk the earth....

Claudia Hayes Hagar said...

dear ones,
I have been so sad all day today, mourning the loss of that house and our family. thanks for sharing this with me!