On a winding road, through shadows in the darkness, is a light.
This light refuses to give in to time or changing of the seasons. It is a testament to the hopes and dreams of yesteryear and is the only lasting landmark on my grandparents’ farm. The old yard light is the only thing that has endured through the passing of time long after the red barns and house have faded away.
I spent many afternoons after school and lazy summer days on my grandparents’ farm. Somehow, the world and all of its problems seemed to melt away right under the shadows of the old oak tree. To me, there wasn’t a more serene place on Earth; I could be myself there.
I remember the sounds of the hogs and cattle and the chickens in the hen house. I can still smell the corn crib and manure-laden air. I would give anything now to be able to walk up that old lane again and hear the gravel crunching underneath my feet.
I was reminded of my grandparents’ old farmhouse Sunday afternoon while I was curled up on the sofa watching one my favorite episodes of “The Waltons.” The characters, Zebulon and Esther, remind me a great deal of my grandma and grandpa. Even though they are gone, I can still get a glimpse of them now and then on “The Waltons.”
In this particular episode, Esther was trying to save an old house from her childhood, the Whitley House, from the wrecking ball. She had wonderful memories of playing dress-up in Civil War-era clothing, parties and her first kiss in the moonlight. Esther wanted to preserve those memories and help breathe life back into its broken frame.
On the other side of the coin, Zeb received the contract to tear down the Whitley House. He looked forward to salvaging its wood to make furniture for others to enjoy.
As a war of emotions unfolded, the old house just couldn’t be saved. The Whitley House’s epitaph was written and its mighty walls tumbled to the ground.
Unbeknownst to Esther, Zeb didn’t forget the Whitley House entirely. He saved a stained glass window and put it in their bedroom since she always wondered how Walton’s Mountain would look through its beautiful colored glass. Suffice to say she had tears in her eyes when he said, “I didn’t forget.”
After many years of standing empty, my grandparents’ old farmhouse succumbed to a similar fate. To me, it endured an agonizing death — loneliness. There is nothing more devastating than seeing a home wither up and die. Year after year, it lost a little more of itself like dead petals falling off the stem of a flower.
During my first year of college, a tornado wrapped its fury around the farm taking out treasured trees and the old barns I used to walk through as a child. They were gone. Barn boards and mangled pieces of metal from the machine shed were strewn across the yard. It looked like a living nightmare. And yet, the old house endured.
As time passed and the cold winter winds blew across the fields, the house withered away more and more.
I couldn’t help but wonder if it missed my grandparents and their voices in the kitchen. Did it miss the smells at suppertime and the sound of children’s voices?
Were the creaks howling in the wind more like cries in the night?
On a spring day five years ago, my grandparents’ house was finally laid to rest. Its cries in the night were finally silenced.
Several family members and I watched as local firefighters set the house on fire for a training exercise. It was hard to watch smoke billowing from the roof and then flames shooting through the windows. I couldn’t help but watch with tears streaming down my cheeks. It was like losing my grandparents all over again.
Before the house was doused with gasoline, a few doorknobs were saved. These doorknobs are as precious to me as Esther’s stained glass window from the Whitley House.
Now, as I drive down the road leading to my grandparents’ farm I can’t help but notice the bright rays beaming from the old yard light. It is the only sign that remains of their life there.
The light stands humanlike in stature waiting for its children to come home again.
Grandma and grandpa’s light will endure and continue to guide my thoughts back home again.
Angie Bicker has been employed with the Clinton Herald since 2001. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.