Inspirational | Nostalgia
The Painful Truth: A Beloved Childhood Refuge Then and Now
When the only safe place in childhood has become a time-ravaged ghost
I remember so vividly the land around The Farm and the intense feelings I had about it. As we drew nearer, I would become so excited it always felt as though the car was barely moving, like when you’re trying to run in a dream and you feel like your legs are in quicksand, and it was all I could do not to get out and push the stupid car.
At the top of the last hill was the old one-room schoolhouse and lots of trees and shrubbery hiding the intersecting roads; hence, the long- practiced custom of honking just before you got there.
Just a short distance away, there was one last curve — oh, how I used to love that curve — with its thick, lush, green trees and bushes lining the old dirt road, deep with familiar, somehow comforting ruts.
Finally, after we rounded the curve, there it was. The most delightful, wonderful, magical place on the face of the earth — The Farm — complete with a big, red barn, nestled into the trees around the curve. And of course there were other Farm delights, livestock, crabapple trees, fresh berries, the lake nearby, endless hours of laughter and exciting things to do, and most important of all, The House.
I wonder how much of my life has been spent in that house, although most of it was while I was 600 miles away.
It was such a cosy old house, with its lovely creaking floors; soft, lumpy furniture, the Big Stool in the kitchen, which was SO tall and very difficult to climb…
The pitcher and basin on the rough, wooden washstand in my room; the robin’s-egg-blue walls throughout the entire house, and the doilies on everything; the old black wood stove…
The familiar, rhythmic creaking and groaning of the green water pump in the utility room; the pail full of fresh, icy well water with a dipper in it, in case we were thirsty, and chamber pots for later; the ancient iron bed that swallowed me in its softness, feather pillows and quilts, sewn by my grandmother with love…
Heavenly smells of bread or cinnamon buns baking, chicken and dumplings, fresh, warm applesauce, and a myriad of other delights always filled the house — I can still remember.
And I can still see Grandma standing in the kitchen, usually cooking. No one ever really loved me except Grandma. The House always warmed me when nothing else could ease the chill of my loneliness; even when I was far away, The Farm worked its magic. For years, the pain in my life was soothed only by the comforting memories, or anticipation of time spent on The Farm.
But now the roads are gravel; the ruts are gone. The desire to travel on them is gone. The trees and shrubs on the hill are gone; no one honks any more. A straight, bare, dry road now pushes its way through the place where the curve used to be.
The barn is gone; burned to the ground. My grandmother and grandfather are gone. The meaning — the all-important, soul-saving meaning is gone.
The House, however, is still there. The floors would creak more lovingly now, but no one walks on them any more, except the mice that scamper across them, in a hurry to hide from — no one. The pitcher and basin are still there, but no one uses them any more.
The furniture is softer and lumpier, but no one sits on it any more. The Big Stool isn’t very big any more; in fact, it’s small enough to be uncomfortable now.
The heavenly warm kitchen smells have been replaced by dust, stale air, pungent mothballs (protecting what?).
Grandma’s sunny bedroom, which always smelled of her perfume, is gone, ripped apart after she died, and it was turned into a bathroom, now full of rusted fixtures from the lousy water.
If you stood ever so quietly and listened ever so carefully, you might still hear the lovely, soothing, rhythmic creaking and groaning of that old green water pump, as it filled buckets with water to be heated and dumped into a washtub for a child’s late night bath in a darkened kitchen, lit only by the flickering fire in the stove.
If you closed your eyes and listened a little harder, you could hear the years’ worth of sounds. They live in the walls. You could hear plates being scraped with silverware, as families delighted in the meals prepared with love; wooden matches being struck, followed by their tiny explosions; hushed voices, being careful not to wake the children (which generation? I can’t make out the voices — maybe the fourth?)…
You would hear the quiet scraping of potatoes as they are peeled, and the tiny splash as they are plunked into a pot of water; the snap of green beans before landing in a bowl; the crunch of crisp, fresh lettuce being torn; sick babies being nursed; squealing children; pages ripped off calendars, and voices remarking how quickly time is passing; crying — who is that?
There’s so much pain — can you hear it? Is it an echo of the sadness of someone who lived long ago, or is it the sobbing of a lonely ghost?
Maybe it is I. When I close my eyes, I feel it.
So I don’t close my eyes. I don’t want to feel it. I don’t want to remember. Besides, it’s really not so different from the past. It’s pretty much the same as before, isn’t it?
After all, it’s just an empty farm, at the end of a gravel road, and just a rickety, old white house, always was, still is, but now occupied by birds and mice.
It’s just four sagging, old walls...walls that tell stories if you stand in the middle of them, close your eyes, and listen.
Another of my short stories for you:
💜☕️ Buy me a coffee, please? It’ll support my writing, and also my mission to help WaterAid bring clean water to everyone. Thank you! 💜
This story was originally published in the author’s short story collection, “The Spirit Within” ©2005 Liberty Forrest
©Liberty Forrest 2021 All Rights Reserved