It's hard to find those places, or even something similar. Unless you're not looking, which happened to be the case for us when my husband and I, newly engaged and in search of a place to begin our married life, ended up with an old dilapidated dwelling at the edge of the town where my family had been rooted since pre-Civil War days.
Yes, the house was appalling. But it sat on a property that wasn't.
It had character. In my eyes, at least. Most everyone else disagreed, but rarely to my face. I could read it on theirs, though, and it only served to fuel my desire to prove them wrong.
That's not true...I long ago gave up on worrying about the opinions of others. What I'm really working toward now is preserving a bit of my heritage, and also a bit of history...
You see, not long after taking possession of the property, my soon-to-be-spouse decided to pick up one of my aunts and my granny and bring them over to show off the place. Having spent her life in this town, Granny knew just about everything there was to know about anything you needed to know about. And so it wasn't a surprise when, upon arriving in the driveway, she exclaimed loudly in her slow country drawl, "Well I'll be!" and then quickly followed that with, "My dad built that house!" .
In 1918, shortly after his second daughter, Lola (my granny), was born my great grandpa (the train-robbing, bank-heisting, circuit-preaching, moonshining great grandpa) began construction on a two room, plank-roofed, high-ceiling house nestled along the Rock Island Line train tracks. The home was intended to be the place for his adopted father, known as Grandad Hill, to spend his last days. This house served its purpose well, and when Grandad Hill passed on, the property passed right on out of the family too. It was occupied for many years by an interesting husband and wife duo (he lived in one room, she in the other) who operated a cider press on the grounds. In the fall of the year, when the apple harvest was gathered from the gnarled trees dotting the homesteads around town, the townsfolk would load their bushel baskets of fruit in the wagons and haul their bounty to the press. The resulting crisp, fresh cider would refresh and help sustain them through most of the winter.
When I was in my early twenties and away at college, long before ever meeting my husband, I got a phone call one day from Granny. She said she had something she wanted to show me, and on my next trip home I'd better get myself over there to see it. Being the obedient (and curious) granddaughter I was, I did just that. My intrigue grew as I followed her up the creaky staircase leading to her attic studio where she worked on her weaving and quilting, and into the farthest corner of the dim room. There, beneath a stack of frayed scrap material and ages-old newspapers, sat what appeared to be a well-worn storage trunk.
With her rough old hands planted firmly on her scrawny hips, she matter-of-factly declared, "This belonged to Grandad Hill, and I rescued it out of the creek years ago. They tossed it there when they were cleaning out the house after he died. I remembered it the other day, and you came to mind...so I want you to have it.".
Even now I marvel at all this. Through no act of my own, I managed to end up with a trunk and a house, albeit years apart, linked to the same long-gone family member. I often wonder if my granny, with her uncanny ability to glimpse snippets of the future, knew where I would end up and wanted to show her support. At the least, discovering the connection between both objects was simply confirmation, during a time when I was anxious about the changes happening in my life, that I was on the right track.
I've spent plenty of time getting off-track the past few years, but I've recently purposed to focus again on this house--its past and its future.
I have visions of a quaint bed & brunch cottage surrounded by abundant berry patches, vegetable plots, a field bursting with brightly colored you-pick flowers, and an heirloom apple orchard with its very own cider press. And maybe a vineyard bordered with the purple haze of lavender in bloom. And chicken coops--there must be chickens.
You think I can pull it off? I guess that remains to be seen--if Granny was still with us she just might be able to see into the future and answer that question for me. But knowing her, she wouldn't tell me anyway...she'd just smile that ornery smile of hers and twinkle her eyes behind those coke-bottle glasses she wore for almost a century.
"Ain't nothing to be done that can change anything I see anyway, so's we might as well just spend the day thinkin' about the 'now', and not the 'when'."
I can still hear her voice...and I'm trying to take her advice. It's just that now all I can think about is when that old house finally shines like the treasure I know it to be.