The Family Farmhouse

I’d loved the time spent learning to ride a horse, to preserve tomatoes from the garden, watching Cicadas unfold themselves from their shells. There were always kittens in the barn in the spring, iced tea brewing in the sunshine from the kitchen window, but my grandparents are gone, buried an entire state away.  The house and surrounding acres managed by their children and fought over and divided and sold and fought over until just the house remains and the patch of lawn around it, and she wants to go see it one more time before the final sale goes through, and I didn’t want her to go alone.  It’s been so long that I miss the driveway the first time, the trees having grown enough to hide the house from the road, and we turn around. The paint is the same. The black, decorative roadrunners still race west across the garage doors.  The gardens that once encircled the house like icing carefully piped around the edge of a wedding cake have gone wild.  Honeysuckle and Virginia Creepers ensnare the bushes.  The windows are blank, abandoned, no one came to straighten out the uneven blinds in the front.  I should stay outside.  Let my memories keep the image of the interior intact, smelling of vanilla and Christmas.  But she wants to push ahead. To see.  We find the key hidden under a rock and open the backdoor pulling in a breeze with us.  We are quiet looking at the empty room.  She shakes her head, walks down the short hall that leads to the kitchen. I follow but stop in the doorway, remembering a trick.  In the doorframe I find the small bronze plate with a hinge on one end.  I push on the bottom and a lever pops up.  I laugh a little and pull out the pocket door remembering how I’d found it magical, a disappearing and reappearing door. It doesn’t move on its track as smoothly as it once did.  She stands at the stove holding up a burner cover she’d bought her mother.  We wander through the family room where decades worth of pictures had been taken in front of the fireplace. We notice the walls are scratched, dirty from about our knees down.  Huh, she says.  I knew he had dogs.  Do you supposed it could be from them?  I can’t believe he let farm dogs in here.  Mom would never have allowed that. There are wasp nests in the front hallway, wood rot around the bathtub. A family is going to move in. A family with young kids. I like the idea of children being here again, but I worry about the mildew smell.  Surely, they’ll have to pull up the carpet?  Replace the drywall?  Take this place back to its studs?

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About the Author

Poetry is my caffeine. My many roles in life (so far) have included teacher, school counselor, bookmobile driver, furniture factory worker, volunteer coordinator, daughter, aunt, wife, mother, reader and writer. My book Buried in the Suburbs was published in 2018 by Woodley Press (2019 Kansas Notable Book Award. My chapbook Domesticated: Poetry from Around the House was published in 2015 (Finishing Line Press). For a complete list of publications see

Jamie Lynn Heller
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