Monday, October 17, 2005

Coming Home

For those of you have lived in different homes throughout your life... do you have one house that you considered home? I was born in 1964 and we lived in the 'red house'. This was my parents first tiny home after they got married and we lived there until my younger brother was about two. Then we moved up in the world and to the 'green house'. This was a bigger, newer home... my dad was doing pretty well in his line of work. In 1970 my younger sister joined the family for a total of 5 children and we were quickly outgrowing the 'green house'.

In 1974 my parents bought a very neglected and worn farmhouse with a huge barn, icehouse, carriage house and 100 acres of land. 'The Farm' as we called it, was 250 miles away (north) from the 'green house'. They planned to move us there and grow and raise our own food and belong to a smaller community. I remember the first time I saw The Farm. It scared and horrified me. I couldn't imagine living there. I recall my mother taking us through it, all excited and pointing out the different rooms (there were 13 rooms and 2 bathrooms) and explaining what the room would be used for. She had a vision of the finished house that I, as a child, couldn't see through the filth. The people who owned the house before we did lived like nothing we'd ever seen before. Actually, I didn't know there were people who lived and raised children in squander like that. They allowed their dogs to have free roam of the house, scratching, peeing and pooping wherever they wanted to. The kitchen was covered in dirty dishes with old food growing on them. Piles of old clothes, dirty dishes, trash and dog poop were everywhere.... yet my mother and father could see beyond that to the charm of the house. All I could think was "oh.my.God I can't live in this." Even though those people lived there, my mother would not let US live there until it was totally cleaned, de-loused, fumigated and met her standards. She would not even let us sit on what passed as a toilet seat on the toilet.

My father would live at The Farm during the week while we were in school and living back at the green house. He was cleaning and repairing the place for us. My mother would travel back and forth with all of us the 250 miles one way in an old van that we used for camping. The inside of the van had a sun, moon and stars painted on the roof and benches to sit on with no seatbelts. We had to bring our cat with us and she puked all the way but the dog handled it fine.

In cleaning The Farm, we removed 32 half ton truck loads of trash out of the house and front yard. That is ALOT of filth. Once the inside of the house was scraped, scrubbed and de-trashed... it really wasn't so bad. Each of us had our own bedroom which was VERY exciting. My mother let us pick out our own carpeting and paint colors ourselves. I remember mine was blue and I was thrilled to have my own room. Not to be bothered that my room and Stacy's were divided only by the chimney and a bookcase... not be to bothered that the ceilings were sloped and I bumped my head all the time.... it still was all mine.

In the fall of 1974 The Farm was declared livable and my father came back to the green house. My parents had met a few people in town and really felt this was going to be a great move for us. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming... we all looked forward to the move. I really don't know why we didn't move then. Maybe my parents wanted us to finish the school year where we were... maybe we had to sell the green house first. Details like that weren't provided to us and I guess we never asked.

We decided to spend Thanksgiving 1974 at the farm and on the Tuesday before, we headed out... mindful of the fact that a huge snowstorm was forecasted for that area. We piled into the van... Mom, Dad, all of the children, our dog and cat. We had to stop a couple hours into the trip to put chains on the tires. We slid off the road and had to wait for a wrecker to pull us out. It was snowing so hard my father had to drive very, very slowly because he couldn't see more than a few feet in front of the hood. My mother was a nervous wreck. The snow was piling up so fast, we were driving through 6 inches of it on the road. The snowplows couldn't keep up with it and there were cars off the road all over. I remember sitting on the bench in the back of that van, white knuckled, praying over and over again to make this awful trip end. Hours later, when we finally arrived at the start of the quarter mile road to the farm, it was like a nightmare just beginning. The old van wouldn't make the last of the trip. It just couldn't make it up the final hill of the driveway, tires spinning (even with chains) uselessly on the snow and ice. We had to get out and walk. Walking through that snow and wind was horrible. It was cold, we were shivering, the snow was almost knee deep and the thought of going into that cold, dark farm didn't make it seem better. Teeth were chattering and I think we all felt like crying.

Suddenly, the smell of wood smoke came upon us and we could see some dim lights through the ferocious snow. As we walked closer to The Farm, we realized the lights were coming from the kitchen windows and the smoke from the chimney. How inviting it looked! My father opened the door and a blast of warm heat billowed out at us in the cold. Traces of the smell of food followed the heat as well. We piled inside and saw a large banner draped across the kitchen entryway that read "To the Higgins' Welcome Home!" A huge pot of chop suey was bubbling away on the kitchen woodstove. All the other wood stoves where burning warmly, the woodbox was full and lights were on. The friends from town my parents had made had done all this for us. They had known we were coming and had gone to The Farm and made it ready, in this small way, to welcome us. After that horrible trip, it was like we were entering heaven... or home. I think at this point my mother sat down and began to weep at the kindness of others in making our first holiday at The Farm the most special.

12 comments:

Melody said...

I, for one, am very glad that you all piled into that old van and made the long, harrowing trip to Greenville. I can't imagine was my teen years would have been like without you, thru good times and bad. Lovely story.

Stephany said...

Sheri, what a neat story!! I'm glad you all made it to "The Farm" just fine through the snow.

Lauren said...

What a lovely memory...

lime said...

what a wonderful story! home with family in a community of welcoming neighbors. what a blessing. thanks for sharing

LibrarianOnTheLoose said...

This is a great story....how old were you?

Thoughts said...

That is one great memory, cherish it, only wish I had one so good...

Thoughts

Tammy said...

Wow! What a story...there's no place like home, especially when you have great neighbors!

. said...

Wow...I loved reading this...reminded me of some of my growing up days. I was ALSO born in 1964. We didn't have an indoor toilet or running water until I was 5 years old I DO remember those days well!

Beth said...

My mother and brother still live in the home I grew up in, but it doesn't feel like home to me at all. The place that felt like home was a 19th century farmhouse my hubby and I completely renovated back in Western NY. We moved after a few years and we both still think of the house and the town often. It was the only place that ever felt like home to me.

Dave said...

I left a comment but it didnt' take I"m so not happy with that grrrrr. Great story what ever happened to the house?

Kerry said...

Loved this entry, Sheri. I felt every moment of it with you.

KL

Julie said...

This was such a nice post Sheri. It reminds us all what the "simple things" mean to us. (hence the name of my blog!) I still live on the same street in the same yard that I grew up in. My perents have a small house that is in desperate need of some updating but Mom always made it feel like home. We also have some beautiful memories of camp, the same one we have now, that sits on the Carrabasset river. It's always nice to go back in our minds to those wonderful days of our youth. Thanks for making us all think back Sheri!