Careful where you step I told myself while taking these photos this week. You should be extremely careful while taking photos of old and abandoned homes such as this. Not only because the grass is tall and the pathways uneven but also because the wells that delivered fresh water are hidden. One wrong step and who would hear your fall? The ground was squishy and unnerving to tread across. Determination urged me closer to my past. This is the home of my great great grandmother who lived in the early 1800’s and this home was probably in the family during the 1700’s. My great great great grandparents lived in the area also and they owned much of the land from here to the horizon.
I have strong connections to my past and much still remains of family treasures about these folks who came when no one else lived in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Seeing this old homestead and all the outbuildings is an exciting peek in to the past and a generation of people that clinged to every minute of every day. Their hardships were many and a farming accident could affect the welfare of those occupying the land in all directions. They farmed together back then lending a helping hand as needed but so busy they hoped no one needed it. So it was that they were proud of what they had but willing to give a hand when needed.After all, most of them were cousins.
How does it feel to walk on land where a generation from the 1700’s to today have lived, cried, lost a loved one, shared the joys, and bore the children who would become doctors, farmers, dairymen, lawyers, furniture makers, CEO’s, career military people, mothers, fathers, and gardeners. Can you imagine the stories that rooted from a place so grand? Is is standing there proudly today through the strength of the generations supporting her frame? It feels a bit like the next breathe will carry you to the sounds of life within the walls. The house lives and wills you to imagine how she stood over 200 year ago.
A glimpse of the presence of its love is in the delicate threads of the curtains hanging in the doorways and windows. Quietly standing there with only the company of the beating of my heart, I stared at the soul of the house. Keenly aware that this very same screen door had welcomed the laughing children who would become my great grand parents. Keenly aware that the parents and great grandparents of these children had grabbed the handle on many a day and opened up the warmth and love that waited inside. Did this entry see sorrow and happiness? Did it see fear and worry? Did it welcome home the weary and give comfort to the father who was humbled by the very weight of farming day to day. Certainly my great great grandfather’s rough and handsome hands lovingingly and bone weary grabbed the pearl door handle and looked forward to the meal that wafted through the threshold.
In the glow of an evening, was my grandfather exhausted from a day farming and providing for a large family. Were there little hiding eyes belonging to a child looking that way? Were the eyes of a child crouching behind the bush that her mother had planted? I pictured the father tenderly glancing that way and motioning a loving gesture and call to supper. My family is famous for the suppers and meals prepared from the recipes so old and delicious that a supper table could be filled with mouth watering friends from all over. All my grandfathers have been proud to put a hearty meal on the table and swap a few tales with a twinkle to the eye. Stories around the table were as common and numerous as biscuits out of the oven. One was not more than the other.
The tree that shaded its family from the summer’s blaring sun and still hanging on so the house would not be alone. Its outstretched arms weak and trembling with age. Still standing proud over the home it had loved and belonged to for those hundreds of years that children had played below the canopy. Branches reaching up and joining the heavens connecting the past to the now. It rains down the branches and on to the roof like it did in the summers and froze in the winter. Looking earily close to the end of its days, is it waiting for the great great grand-daugther to come back to record what was written in her heart.
I counted the chimnys that rose with the branches and the number was three. The wood it must have taken for keeping the babies warm was probably a chore for the brothers who grew strong on hearty farm dishes. Grandmother’s kitchen jutted out from the side of the home. One door on the front shared a view with the door on the back. Most definatley a set of doors placed purposefully for the cross breezes hoped on a sticky afternoon of cooking. Cooking for a family too numberous to sit around the table. They would spill on to the porches and stairways. No one minded for grandpa was swapping a lie and swatting a fly. It was story telling time and it could be just as well heard from the front as heard from the back. Biscuits could be eaten wherever you sat.
So much was still in the house that it spooked me to think there were still eyes looking out of the windows. Peeking in the windows were the things of a time when the home was filled with family. So many more questions still to ask at a time when I can sit down with my cousins who all live in the area and pass the old place every day of their life. Did they think what I thought and perhaps that is why it had never been disturbed. I hope to find out that this old homeplace is destined to live till we are gone. My children can visit and stand at the door where laughter and they were born in our dreams.
It could be right here in the meadow behind that house that I was one step away from a fall to the bottom of the well. Where was that well? It had to be here. Not knowing if I would find it under the overgrown grass, I stepped softly and gingerly through every clump. I had to get this far back to see the porches where beans were snapped and watermelon was eaten. Spitting contest were a sureity. We are a fun family who plays games of checkers, skips rope, tosses bean bags, and goes for a walk. It would have been busy and productive on the porches in the back. Little bits of treasure littered the ground but were they hiding the opening of that well?
Come and get your supper rings out the supper bell! From the back porch, they looked out on the squirrles, the woods, the cows, horses, outbuildings, and farm equipment. Grandfather was a circuit riding preacher but he was also a farmer. No place on earth can you be closer to God than a farm. He must have prepared many a sermon at the reins of the mule who pulled the plow. No better way to think of sowing the seed than where God said we would toil. Planting for God is not much different than prparing the soil to recieve the life giving seeds of faith.
Even the birds were not forgotten or a place for the plows, tools, and things used to farm on the land of my fathers.
Ruts in the ground that a wagon once drew.
I’ll go back and see my grandmother’s Crepe Myrtles bloom. Not sure I’ll be able to handle something so old that holds the keys to my family who saw the same blooms decades ago. How old are they?
It took me over 210 years to get here and I’ll go back sooner than that. I’ll go back to get the stories from the cousins who own all the land within miles and miles of our home. I have been looking for the house since I knew it existed. Just this week, I was able to discover it was a house I had passed a hundred times both in my childhood and today. I left home in 1974 at 16 and just returned in 1999. Much has happened and been lost since then.
How fast our history can escape from the many branches of a family so large. I am thankful that some of those folks have kept it undisturbed. Maybe there are plans to renovate and preserve? I hope. When I looked up the tax records, I discovered that in 10’s of 100’s of miles in all directions were the names in my family tree branching right off the same great great grandparents. They are close enough to be neighbors. Who would have known? I guess we should be careful who we marry.
+++++ If you enjoyed this story then please let me know.