I had a dream about the old house last week. My mother and her brother (my Uncle John) drove me out there in the dead of night, and I broke in through the back way. It turned out that I had left things there, and I needed to collect them and save them. There were things from my mother’s collection that the auctioneers had somehow passed over, and that I hadn’t had the time to take. I went through the whole house in the dark, grabbing up loads of my mother’s past and mine as well. I made trip after trip out to the car, filling up the back seat. My mother and Uncle John just sat in the car beside each other while I worked. I didn’t like the way that they looked at me.
Before he moved out West, shortly after the funeral gathering for my brother-in-law that I did not attend, my father passed on the news that the new owners of the family house out in Albion were going to tear it down.
He said that the big barn was already gone. This is the main reason why I could not bring myself to attend my sister’s husband’s service: their house is just a quarter mile or so and around a corner from the Old House, and I can’t bear to ever go out to Albion again, not for anyone, not for any reason. It’s done, it’s done. It’s done.
But still the news made me so sad, just made me shake my head. Sure, the old place needed work, but it was basically sound; and more than that it was a grand rambling house with so much potential, so much that could have been revived. It needed a new roof, mainly… replacing this with the original cedar shakes would have been unimaginably expensive, but a metal roof could have been put on the place quite economically, and I’m no longer as opposed to metal roofs as I used to be. For one thing, the snow slides off!
Once that was done, there were a handful of interior walls that needed repair, but I see this done all the time on the plethora of home remodeling shows that are all over TV these days. Take the opportunity while you’re doing it to re-insulate with modern materials, it could have been the grandest house once again.
But they waited too long. The roof needed to be done ASAP, and in the four years that they’ve owned the place they did nothing. And when, in a strange mood, I looked at the most recent satellite pictures of the house from above, I saw that the roof had fallen in over the bedroom right next to mine… there it was, a big, gaping hole in the roof.
I feel now more than ever that somehow, some way, my mother was the glue holding the old place together. As soon as she died, so did the house begin to die. I wrote about all this four years ago here on the blog, so I won’t rehash it here.
The house needed the new owners to be saviors. Instead, they spent all their efforts cutting down every single tree and bush around the place so that it looked like it was sitting in the middle of the Sahara. And now it’s too late for them. For it. For the place.
All of this has been on my mind lately, not because I’m unhappy in my current place (which is the opposite of true: every single day I thank my lucky stars for my current home, and especially for the way it has embraced all of the past history that I brought to it; I am so very lucky) but because I do believe that houses have spirits; and the news that my Dad gave me felt like another Death Knell in the family. The Old House was my home for more than thirty-five years. Now it’s going — perhaps it has already gone as I type this.
The Google Earth pictures were bad enough: looking at them I felt the way people in wars must feel when their homes get bombed into rubble. I didn’t dwell on them long. I know that I could never go back out there again. It’s why I couldn’t go to my brother-in-law’s service.
And yet there is a perverse part of me that is a little bit glad that no one will ever live in that house again. We were the last. It served us well, just exactly as long as it needed to.