Sunboy is spending the week at his Grammy and Grandpop’s house. It’s the first time he has visited a place without us, with the exception of the long days when we waited for Flowergirl to be born almost two years ago. It’s a remarkable place, where the past still holds root and flourishes, nestled among rolling, tree-covered ridge mountains. It took years for me to avoid getting lost on the back roads of the town that lacks a main road and evokes driving directions that are only qualitative. Turn at the old barn with the cows. Left at the feed store. Veer around the old church and down the winding hill.
My father and step-mom live in a stone house built in the 1790s. It lacks central heat and is warmed by one wood-burning stove in the winter. Gaps between the smooth wooden planks of the second floor have been widened by hundreds of years of footfalls and allow heat to rise to the bedrooms upstairs. Likewise, the house lacks central air-conditioning, in fact, many windows no longer open after years of paint accumulation and years of reclaiming by creeping vines. The house is in equilibrium with nature, just as they like it. Recently there was a giant wolf spider on the stairs that was the size of my hand. “Live and let live”, they said. They let it exist on the stairs like a stationed guard to the upper level of the house for the remainder of our visit.
If my dad wants to add new wiring to the house, he must first find an area of wall that hasn’t been pointed out with concrete. Then he must scratch away the horsehair-mud mixture that holds the stones in place, remove a stone from the wall, add the wire, chip the removed stone to accommodate the added wire and replace the stone. Living there is a labor of love. And how else could it be? This house is alive with history and character. The house has seen it all.
Not to say that the house lacks all modernization, but the emphasis is unquestionably on maintaining its foothold in its original era. One addition that I adore is the stained and leaded glass, even if their use as bathroom doors leaves one forgoing some modesty and relying on the good judgement of the other home dwellers.
The house was the original farmhouse on a large farm now divided into smaller plots. The house retains several of the original outbuildings: an outdoor oven, a smoke house, a spring house and barns. The original outhouse has fallen to the ages.
So this is where my Sunboy is spending his week. I’m thrilled he has this time with his grandparents, and that their house provides so many opportunities for understanding an old country lifestyle. My step-mom is a talented gardener and cook. I’m told that today Sunboy helped her make a mixed berry jam from her own berries, which they then canned for the winter. Sometimes she keeps chickens in a hen-house and a chicken tractor that moves around the farm. By the end of his week at “Grammy Camp” he may know more than I do about the ways that people lived in the remote country a few centuries ago. The ways are still alive in my family, and I learn what I can. Perhaps now I will learn from him.