Friday, March 20, 2009

Last Days of the Homestead

 The Big Story
I am the daughter of a man named John. He is the son of a man named Rudolph. Rudolph was the son of a man named Alexander. Mom and Dad have a photo of Alexander in the basement, above the mantle. It always kind of creeped me out. His wife was even a little bit creepier. I kind of look like those people though, so I wonder what that says about me?

Anyway, they all grew up and lived in what shall from now on be called "the farmhouse". It was set back from the main street of town by a large meadow. It was one of the only remaining running farms "in town" and is sort of an iconic landmark in our small hometown. I remember growing up that the population sign read "1514" wayyyy back when. I'm sure it's much more than that now as most of the farms have been turned into developments.

The farmhouse was the meeting place of all of the cousins (my dad has 5 siblings who all, except the aunt who is a nun, had at least 5 children) and we were the youngest of all of them. Most of our time there when we were visiting was spent up in the "play room" which was never really a bedroom but more like a guest room. It had no closet and a tiny bathroom (toilet and sink). It had a linoleum tile floor and was always cold but it stored a bunch of games that we would take to different parts of the house and play when we had a family get together. The upstairs had four bedrooms (one was that playroom) and up from that, if you dared or were allowed to, you could get to the attic. That attic was CLASSIC. It kept the stored remains of EVERYTHING that couldn't be used or displayed from more than 100 years, I'm sure. Every time one of us kids were allowed to go up there for something, we were shrieked at by Grandma Laura "Be careful! You could fall through the ceiling!!!" It was partially safe by boards and planks that were put across the beams but if you had a misstep (which one of the cousins did, according to family lore...not really sure if that one was true or not) you would end up with your foot in one of the four bedrooms.

My grandma moved from there to a nearby senior cottage years ago and various cousins have lived there on and off over the years. The farm was worked or used for storage by the uncles for years until that got old. None of the cousins had the money or the interest in keeping the farm or the land around it (taxes are huge) so the uncles sold it for development a few years ago. We all have very strong, sentimental attachment for the farm. I got to live there one year, about six years ago, we sold our home before this house was finished being built, so we lived at the farmhouse for the summer. The kids were excited about their new home (only three of them at that time!) but were sad that we couldn't live in the farmhouse anymore. I loved taking care of it and mowing the meadow. I even planted a garden in Grandpa's old garden plot and felt a little like he was maybe proud of me for carrying on that tradition. I'm not as good of a gardener as he was, but it was a very nice way to teach the kids about that sort of thing. We loved being so close to everything in town. We could run and walk around, explore every day, find cool things all around the farm grounds (lots of old barns). I felt very close to my roots at that time. I even had a giant picnic with all the aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings, just like old times. Grandma Laura came too, but by that time, she was not really aware that she was back at the farmhouse and that was pretty sad. It's almost as if, after Grandma died, the family didn't have their heart in taking care of the farmhouse anymore. It is shrivelling up and turning to dust with no one taking care of it, and no one living in it. A house has to be lived in to exist. Without any care, they fall apart pretty fast. That old house has some great bones and I've always thought that (with about 100,000 bucks) it would make a fabulous museum or maybe a cool bed and breakfast or, at least, a really great home for a big family like mine!

Well, it got sold and there is now going to be a road going through the property (they are turning it into a multi-lane road). The city has already bought and taken down a whole lot of houses in town to do this but the farmhouse hasn't really been messed with yet. All of the outbuildings are still just sitting there too. The kids have been BEGGING me to take them to explore one last time but the driveway is dirt, long, and had been covered by snow and my rear wheel drive van couldn't make that trek so I've put them off. One day last month, Mom said that the uncles said that the deal was that we had just a few more days to get in there and take what we wanted before the property went to the bank or whatever so I ran over with my camera, thinking that at least I could get some good pictures of some junk to help my memories.

It was mostly depressing. Last summer, I helped the aunts and uncles get stuff down from the attic and they sorted through most everything of value. The rest of the sentimental stuff just kind of got noted then left behind. There was a lot that was just too weathered and beat up to even be desired by anyone. I thought it was all very interesting but I liked holding on to the memories of what that house and all of it's things represented to me.

I haven't taken any pictures or any things from the outbuildings because I want to get my kids in on that excursion but this was all stuff left behind (that will probably be destroyed or's been sitting a long time in an attic that had a broken, partially opened window and the weather had free reign on it all those years!)
So, here are some pictures and I'll explain some of the stuff to you so you can remember with me:

Here is my pile of stuff that I got together after digging around. The baby crib was supposedly my dad's. I thought about keeping it and fixing it up but I didn't know what kind of paint it had on it and it was pretty rickety and wobbly. It looks cute in the picture but it was just more than I have time for right now. The white chair was nice and sturdy but I couldn't haul it when it was so snowy outside so I might go back for it. I thought it would look cute on the porch. The suitcase was my aunt's and I did salvage that. It makes a great storage box and was in very good shape.

This was an old calculator that I think might have been used to figure out the farm's finances. I think I recall coming into the farmhouse kitchen when my aunts and uncles were doing the figuring one time. That struck me as odd at the time. It really was a business and I think that was the first time I realized that. I had always sort of thought of it all as a lot of work, or maybe a really fun hobby (I liked riding in the tractor with Grandpa) but I hadn't ever been a part or known about the financial aspects of it all.

I don't know why I took a picture of this, it was very dark up in the attic and I had to take pictures of things with my flash just to see into the corners for a second. I think it's because it was kind of an older looking flashlight from The Corner Bar that I thought was cool.

This is one of the corners of the attic. The whole thing was completely open with a stairway near the chimney near the back of it. If a person had a lot of moolah, they could turn that attic into a really cool extra room. It's HUGE! The chimney is very strange as it's on a slant. The attic structure is unlike anything I've ever seen. It's amazing how it even held up all those years.

Here is a shot of the floor with the missing spots ("you'll fall through!") and parts of an old cabinet.

This old chair could have been pretty cool but it was missing too many parts. Why did they keep the thing anyway? I wonder why it didn't just get burned? That old trombone case didn't have anything in it. I checked.

This is my aunt's old prom dress (I think). Mom said she wanted it back but the girls are having way too much fun with it in their dress up box so unless she comes to get it, it's staying here hahaha!

Here is a wooden appliance box. Again, why did they put it in the attic? It must have been a beast to haul up there! They had plenty of room in the outbuildings...and the burn pile. They must have thought, "Hey, that's a good box right there...we could use it for something someday!" like everything else up there.

I happened upon this neato looking violin body. It was just laying there on the floor with nobody to love it so I brought it home thinking it might be cool looking in a spring display up on the ledge (where I decorate for the seasons, above my door in the entryway). I haven't gotten up there to take down Christmas yet...more on this later...

There must have been a lot of birds that have gotten trapped in this attic over the years. Most everything was covered in bird stuff. There is a whole pile of old, broken, bed and crib remains. I tried to get to the bottom of the pile but it was getting pretty creaky and precarious up there so I decided to save it for another day.

These windows face the front of the house and are partially open and broken.

I thought this box of kitchen implements was kind of interesting.

There were MANY old pictures and home decorating items both in frames, and broken out of them. Here is a picture of who I think is Pope Leo XIII?

It seems like every scrap of wood was kept. Some of it was kept in this old barrel. I think if I would have tried to move it, it would have crumpled up into a zillion pieces.

I thought this old door thingy looked like it could be used for a cool project...but I left it behind.

This is the giant pile that I was afraid to get too close to. I would have had to remove things piece by piece and I was interested in the stuff that was UNDER it, but I had no time and it was getting very cold up there.

There were a LOT of these. My grandpa smoked cigars and pipes. I'll never forget that smell. I'm pretty sure Heaven will smell like Grandpa.

I'm not sure if this was used by our family or if it was a later garage sale purchase and discarded by a cousin who lived there but it looked so pitiful and lonely up there.

I'm not sure who this spooky guy is.

He was even spookier in all of my other pictures.

That crutch that's leaning against that old TV was SO TALL! It must have been used for a giant. Most of the people in my family are pretty short but it might be fun to try and figure out who it was for.

Here is the stairway to DOOOOOOM. Just kidding, it's the stairs to the least I think it is (cue scary music...)

Hey! I remember this lamp! I always thought that if I rubbed it, a Geenie might come out of it.

Here are some pictures of stuff that got brought down from the attic last summer but were just left behind.
I found a lot of old newspaper in some old trunks. I took pictures of some of the funnier ads and articles. I don't know why some of these got my attention but I thought they were all so great!

(the entry to the attic stairs...boogedy boogedy boogedyyyyyy)

I call this one "Fr. Whatawaste". Seriously, he was super cute, wasn't he?

I found him along with Cardinal/Msgnr Spooky in this montage of young, collard men. Who were they? Why did my family have this picture?

"I thought I was going to die. I hadn't eaten for a week. I couldn't even smoke a cigarette!"...said the DOCTOR. Oh, horrors! She must have been VERY sick, indeed!

Hmmm, everything old is new again...

Well, it's getting late and I'm getting tired. I didn't caption all of the pictures because I'm getting too sad about them. Just look at the pictures of the kitchen but instead of a big pile of junk...imagine a bustling bunch of people joining Grandma and Grandpa for Sunday dinner, or a fun bunch of folks from their card club laughing and poking fun at each other. Imagine Grandpa sitting there, in a chair, next to the entry to the living room, putting on his boots to go out and do some work. He's got snowy white, beautiful hair that's slightly mussed up because he just ran his hand through it. He's got a pipe hanging from his mouth. He wiggles his bushy eyebrows up and down, alternately (I inherited that trick from him) at you and his big, giant ears wiggle at the same time. I say do it again, Grandpa and of course, he does. I am there all alone for a change and I ask where's Grandma. She's out getting some eggs he says. I say, okay, I love you Grandpa and he says, I love you too, Laurie. I think to myself. Wow, I always knew he loved his kids and grandkids but there's so many of them to remember just one. He knows my name! And, he loves ME!