Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Who will watch the home place?
That opening line of the refrain from a Laurie Lewis song kind of says it all for most of us involved directly or peripherally (me) during the last few weeks in the closing down and family leavetaking at the old Miller home place in English Township.
The rest of the refrain would be overstating the case for most of us, although certainly not for my Aunt Marie:
Who will tend my heart's dear space?
Who will fill my empty place
When I am gone from here?
When I backed out of the long driveway early Tuesday (filled with vehicles so the turn-around was not accessible), Dick was wrangling the stuff he and Karen are hauling now back to New York into a U-Haul. His treasure: an ancient anvil anchored to a substantial tree stump that Grandpa kept in the back garage.
Among Karen's: A modest pile of rocks (to Dick's dismay, although they're used to each others oddities and tolerant of each other's quirks by now). In that, Karen is her grandmother, Jessie, and my mother, her aunt, reincarnated. For some reason, Miller women always have collected rocks and hauled them home. Karen recalled bringing a small rock back from Okinawa, where she was teaching quite a few years ago now and where she met Dick, for my mother to add to her collection on our farm south of Russell.
The big auction was Saturday, the packers came Monday and as I drove north on Tuesday the moving van was headed toward the farm from Omaha with an anticipated noon arrival. By now, the big old house is as empty as it's ever been in the century since it was built as the last of its most recent family drives east.
The auction Saturday exceeded everyone's expectations I'm told (although I wasn't there because of a command performance at the office here and I can't decide if I'm sorry or glad to have missed it). It did not rain, for a change, to everyone's relief and a big crowd turned out to pay absurdly high prices for some things; absurdly low prices for others. The auctioneer even --- as an afterthought --- sold for $40 a pile of rock that had been hauled up to the house over the years and deposited out northwest of the house. There's just no accounting for what people will buy.
People have asked Marie, Karen and Dick --- even me --- during the last few weeks if we don't feel just awful about selling and leaving a farm that's been in the family since the 1880s.
And the answer to that, for all of us I think, is well, not really. It has served one family wonderfully well for going on 130 years, but there's a time and a season for everything and it's someone else's time and season now. We just hope it continues to be loved and taken care of.
I have a strong sense of place, I think, but tend not to be overly sentimental about real estate. I wouldn't want the farm even if I could approach affording it. Others' dreams have spread themselves across those acres of rolling hills and woodland and have been invested in mighty barns and a house that reflected their thoughts about a suitable place to live. But it's the dreamers who hold a place in my heart --- Grandpa and Grandmother Jessie, Verna, Uncle Richard and Aunt Marie.
Without them, it seems hollow --- and echoes lonesome.
I'm missing Aunt Marie already --- she who is among the most delightful of human beings; and anticipating the empty space that will be left when "the girls" fail to make their annual (or more frequent) pilgrimages from across the East to the farm.
But I'll give them all a call this weekend when the dust has settled a little, and feel better about their absence.
Maybe I'll go out to the farm after a while and walk around a little, take a few more photos. Then again, maybe I won't.
The photos up top here were taken last fall, looking south across a small pond just beyond the old orchard toward the farmstead, then north across the pond to the fields and woods beyond. I just haven't had the heart lately to run around out there with a camera.