While reading some of my favorite blogs this morning, I ran across a post about going home again. The writer talked of visiting various places where she had lived only to find them all changed. Other people now live there, houses have been remodeled and yards and gardens done over. Most bore little resemblance to her memories of them.
I get restless sometimes. I wish I could move out of the city. I wish I could go back to the north country I love. Or to the drafty old farmhouse that I mostly grew up in. But if I take a long, realistic look at things, I know in my heart of hearts that this will not happen. The dubious joys of my "golden years" make it nearly impossible.
I love the northern part of my state because my family roots are there. I have such good memories of time spent as a child in the house my grandfather built for his large family. I can see in my mind the kitchen with it's worn plank floor and wood burning stove and the ice box in the corner and the stool by the back door that held a bucket full of well water and a dipper for drinking. I see the upright piano in the corner of the main room that my grandfather played, and although I never knew him or heard his music, I see him through the tales told me by my father. I can visualize my grandmother sitting in the chair that was hers, reading or smiling at the shenanigans of her grown children and grandchildren. I see her in the early morning, long black braid, only touched with gray even in her later years, down her back, stoking up the stove firebox to cook breakfast.
I sometimes think about the farmhouse where I spent the better part of my youth. I remember the warmth of the kitchen where it seems, in my memory, there was always something good baking in the oven. I remember bedroom walls that were papered, for underneath was lath and plaster that couldn't be painted. I recall warm summer nights spent sleeping on the screened front porch, and the storm clouds Dad and I watched from that same porch, rolling over the fields. I think of the hours spent roaming the woods and fields behind the house and the dog that was always at my heels and the orchard and the garden. And the long row of peony bushes that were a riot of white and pink while in bloom.
My grandparents house is no longer there. A number of years ago it was donated to the local firefighters to burn as a practice drill. The farmhouse is gone as well, torn down to make way for a new house built on the property.
And then the realization comes to me that it is not the buildings that are important. It is the memories of life in those buildings. It is the laughter of my aunts and uncles and cousins when we all got together in the north. It is following my uncle to the barn when he went to do the milking and playing with the latest batch of barn kittens. It is the soft lap of my grandma and the absolute knowledge that she loved me. It is my Dad's silly jokes and Mom's homemade bread. It is the time and patience my parents put in to teach me so many things that have helped me over the years. It is taking care of my baby brother when Mom couldn't, and loving every minute of it. It is memory of a two-room country schoolhouse and bike rides down gravel roads and nearly burning my eyebrows off trying to smoke corn silk with the neighbor girl.
I have heard it said that you can't go home again, and that is true. But every now and then, when city life comes close to being unbearable to this country girl, I can go home. For it is not the houses, but the people. Most of them are gone now, but they still live in memory. And I think that may be enough.