When we were visiting my parents over Christmas we took a day to put flowers on my grandmother's grave. It seemed wrong that it had been nearly 2 years since she had died and I had yet to stop at her grave.
As we were leaving, my dad asked if I'd like to stop at the farm.
When I was little, I loved going to the farm. It was my Great Aunt Violet and Uncle Sam's place. Neither of them had ever married (brother and sister) and they always treated us as though we were theirs.
They had 7 acres. A relatively small plot for farming, but perfect for a few unruly children to go wild.
I remember the corn field. We could play tag in there and it was so easy to get lost. Standing in the middle of that field, everything else went away. It was so quiet. I loved standing there with these stalks towering over me, staring up at that bright blue sky.
The barn. Big, red, peeling paint, a little creaky. Perfect for jumping off that 2nd floor loft into the waiting hay bales. OK, it sounds painful now but then? It was free. Aunt Violet would come out from time to time, telling us to stop that before we broke our necks, but Uncle Sam would simply wink at us, knowing that as soon as they were back in the house we would be jumping off that loft again.
The outhouse. Yes, an honest to goodness outhouse. They didn't get indoor plumbing until the early 80's, but my Uncle Sam still preferred that outhouse. I guess after using that outhouse for 75 years, it seemed wrong to change that.
We would spend hours chasing each other around that farm. Never worrying about anything but which tree we should climb first.
My favorite part of our visit was sneaking away from the others and going inside.
No one ever used the front door. That was for strangers and salesmen and since they lived out in the middle of no where (the town didn't get paved roads until the 90's), that was extremely rare. I can only remember their doorbell ringing once and only because the sound of it caused the adults to look at each other as though an alien had suddenly appeared and offered them a cake made of slugs.
The back door led straight into an honest to goodness washroom. No, not a laundry room. They never had a washer and dryer. They had a large metal tub with a washboard and a line out back for drying clothes. My Aunt always insisted that we wash our hands before coming into her kitchen. Seems fairly simple enough. But they didn't have a sink in that room. Instead there was an old porcelain bowl and pitcher. I loved having her pour the water over my hands. Such a simple act but so different from when my parents made me wash my hands at home.
Then we would sit at her kitchen table and I would listen to them talk and answer questions all the while waiting. Because I knew it wouldn't be long before Aunt Violet would hand over that little glass bowl of tea berry mints. If you've never had one, there's really not any decent way to describe them. Only that they do not taste like mint and you will either love them, or hate them.
I loved them.
My Uncle Sam was quiet and thoughtful. My Aunt Violet was so bursting to the tips of her being with life it seemed that she could burst with it.
One day, my Uncle Sam died. And even though the visits continued, they were diminished. As though his loss sucked some of the life out of everything left behind.
The barn seemed a little less. The corn stalks seemed smaller. The trees drooped as though they could no longer pretend to be perfectly maintained climbing wonders.
And then Aunt Violet died and there just wasn't a reason to go to the farm anymore. All the things that had made it so amazing were gone.
Seeing it all again took me back for a moment. But all those memories couldn't hide the truth. The corn was gone of course (it is winter). The barn looks like it should be taken down. 2 of my favorite climbing trees are gone and I miss their branches even more now. The house looks the same and I wonder if the people renting it can love it as much as my Aunt and Uncle did. I wonder if they are still there. In the halls, the kitchen, the rooms that they breathed and laughed in.
As we pulled away, I saw it. There in the back of the house just as perfect as I remembered it.
My Uncle Sam's outhouse.