Tuesday, May 18, 2010

in good hands

there's a house in a little country town south of Birmingham. my daddy built most of it, designed it. he actually built in the back pasture of the house where i lived for about 8 years. so growing up, i only knew this land. he had a big lake dug out right in front, and we watched the creek fill it up with a few big rains. our neighbor stocked it with some southern fish (you know the kind..with whiskers), and along came turtles, a family of wood ducks, and a goose couple we fondly referred to as Murphy & Matilda (rest in peace..).

my sister and i would pick blackberries all around the edges every summer. i would go on long adventures in the surrounding pastures, discovering bigger creeks, railroad tracks, and hobo spots. a neighbor kid & i would dig for crawdads in the creek. dad built a barn-sized workshop, which he once paid me fifty bucks to paint. he built a Cades Cove cabin at the end of the driveway to sell his furniture out of (he builds Shaker furniture, or anything else he can think of for that matter). my sister lived in it for a season, my dad lived in it for a season. . i ran miles around that lake, fished for hours, carved out so many hidden spots just for me.

my parents sold our place while i was in college. there were lots of reasons, a lot of sadness happened there that maybe they wanted to leave behind. i think i loved it so much, even in the midst of sadness, because i found so many places of escape. anyways, it was the best choice for them. i was devastated. my mom & i could easily cry about it at the drop of a hat, if given the chance. is that strange? crying about a house?

we heard over the years who lived there, what they were like. the neighbors kept my parents well-informed. the first new owners ripped out my mom's backyard herb garden and put a pool in. when i heard this, i zipped down and my sister & i snuck on the property and helped ourselves to a few of my mom's prized flowers & vines that took years to become perfect. yes, we did. i was living in an apartment at the time, in Chattanooga, and had no place to plant them. i took a jasmine vine to my mom's favorite garden shop and gave it to an older couple in the parking lot. they promised to take care of it. the rest i delivered back to mom. she was so proud of her girls.

it changed ownership again, and then sat empty for a while. i heard somebody painted it yellow.blasphemy.

but back at Christmas, we heard a new family bought the place. we perked our ears. family? who are they? they used to be missionaries to South America. they have five children. the older ones went to Covenant College. oh, and the dad went to Bryan College.

i never hear of anyone who attended my alma mater. i had to meet him.

so. . i took another trip a few months ago. this time with my own little girl, my sister, and my niece. we pulled up to the driveway. while unloading the car, a nice-looking middle-aged man came out to shake our hands. he knew who we were before we said anything. the Norton girls. he welcomed us onto the front porch (new!) and we rocked in the rocking chairs and looked out at that very familiar scene. we swapped stories. in a matter of five minutes, i felt like a very big part of my memories, my heart, was finally in good hands.

he had a lot of questions about the property. i took him and one of his daughters on a 'walking tour'. yes, that was where my dad's huge vegetable garden was, so your blueberry plants will thrive there. this area used to be a back patio-herb garden. no, we weren't a pool family. we're lake folks. have you found the 2-story tree house and fort? no, they hadn't. the path was still there, after probably 13 years of anybody walking it. as we walked back to the front porch, he paused and said 'you know, it's as if your family created the foundation for us to fall into.' i whole-heartedly agreed.

i had no intention of asking to go inside the house, but he insisted. i'm not sure i should have, seeing other people's stuff where mine used to be. . but it was neat. i walked into the kitchen, and it almost took my breath away. i climbed the stairs to my old room; much smaller than i remember! and above the living room fireplace? one of my dad's last paintings of the house! they found it in the loft in the workshop. they were so proud of it, and figuered it was painted by the original owner. i confirmed that. : )

i'm so glad i went. it's as if i had to physically/mentally place my seal of approval on the new owners and leave with my heart a little lighter. and it is.

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