A Home in Three States
I grew up in a three story stable barn sparsely covered with chips of gray paint and resting on the soft corner of a dirt road. A decade earlier converted into a home by my father’s worn hands. Once housing steer and horses for my long gone relatives. Now, an overprotective parent’s nightmare. Case after case of stairs free of railings. Each one at some point giving way, sending me tumbling head over heels to the base. A wood shop full of spinning blades and pointed chisels anchored down the first floor. My father’s shop, that would steal him away in the early mornings till long after the sun had said it’s prayers and tucked itself in. Crashes of curse words rattling dishes from last night’s dinner. Old barn beams curling up in every corner. Despite the physical flaws, this was a home. A clean home that my mother, a dedicated educator, toiled over. With sweat on her brow, she fought daily against the rising dust and wood chips carried to the second and third levels through the gaps between the planks. Armed to the teeth with chemicals and rubber gloves she wouldn’t stop till she made that place shine. Sometimes rubbing so hard, as if she expected to find the home she always wanted hidden just below the surface. Despite holding down a job she was also a homemaker, not by nature, by necessity. Raising two kids while her husband cut years off of his fingers one floor down at the ban saw.
This grand home held two children, two adults and a rotation of cats and dogs. My castle was complete with a cupola. A lookout station decorated with stained glass that cast blues and purples on the floor below at the perfect time of day. A bust of William Shakespeare served as the figure head of our court. Displayed nobly in our living room, his features carved out of granite, passed down from my grandfather, to my father and one day to me. Protruding out of the middle of the second floor was a chimney built by Dali’s Persistence of Time. It danced up the wall and roared out the shingled roof. Smoke billowing from it’s mouth on cold winter days while we sat, curled up, warming our faces by the fire. This was my sanctuary.
Years later, after my parents divorced and went their separate ways, this once grand home was as gray as the paint that speckled the outside. A new squeak from the front door welcomed me and the first step shook my confidence as it wobbled under my foot. Without my mother’s touch almost every surface was covered in remnants of my father’s work. A thick layer of dust dulled everything in the house. The micro bits of wood had suffocated the life out of everything. Shakespeare’s features diminished to the point he was unrecognizable. The one thing my father took most pride in, his lawn, was still trimmed to a neat inch. He had built a dozen raised beds that prominently displayed row after row of lettuce and herbs. The contrast between the life of the outside and the bleakness of the inside was biting. But, the light from the stained glass still sparkled and the chimney still swayed to the rhythm of the power tools grinding away on the first floor.
My father’s Sixtieth birthday took me back home after years of being three thousand miles away. I arrived to see my castle transformed back into a ramshackle carriage barn. A return to a state my father saved it from. Brought on by the same man who gave this outbuilding new life. Bare wood weathered to the point of rot. No longer dotted with ashen paint. The raised beds growing full of weeds and bramble. The lawn was no longer measured in inches, but in some unit of measurement meant more for meadows. That first step had been replaced with a cinder block, still seesawing on uneven ground. The interior was a jungle of sticks and leaves embezzled from
the green earth. A failed attempt to capture the life outside those barn doors and restrain it among couches and coffee tables. The Bard’s face, now reeling from a recent fall, was missing the tip of his nose. All of his regality still spilled on the floor he crashed to. What was still left of the stained glass’ vivid colors was now broken up by bright light careening through empty panes. The chimney stood right where it had been for years. Asking anyone who passed for a dance. It’s curves seducing you into forgetting the prevailing collapse around you. My home was gone, swallowed by the dust and dried foliage trekked in by my weary father. In it’s place was the dwelling of a tortured artist on Hover Avenue Extension.