In June of 1962, our piano sat on the sidewalk in front of the Montana farmhouse (where the skies are not cloudy all day). Our Dad had entered heaven’s rest on March 31 that year and by mid-June the farm had been deeded over to a relative who purchased it and would continue farming. The auction of farm machinery and of the household goods that wouldn’t be needed in my mother’s newly purchased old house in a town about 40 miles distant had been completed. Now all that remained was moving her personal items and selected household furniture.
The piano looked very out of place sitting outside on the sidewalk in the sunshine. Pianos belong in living rooms surrounded by singers and musicians, but the piano was headed for the new house as well. As it sat there waiting patiently to be loaded on to the last truck headed out, with all our good uncles in close attendance to our mother’s needs, I asked if I could play it one last time.
Everyone immediately responded with, “Well, yes! …and we’ll sing!” And so we did. I played “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and “How Great Thou Art!” and we sang there under the open sky. So that living farmhouse heard the music one last time.
Today, in July of 2011, I sit here in western Minnesota preparing to leave another old farmhouse, another Living House that listened to the same old piano over the last 17 years. I have lived here as long as I lived there. This old farmhouse between the cornfields and wheat fields has been loved just as that Montana house was loved on the prairie in the 1950’s.
Two weeks ago a couple in their 70s, accompanied by their three adult children (in their 40’s) came to visit. Until 1979 This Old House had been Their Old House and was situated 1 mile west of where I sit today. In 1979 when they built a new home on their farmstead, this house, which had been built by the elderly man’s father, was carefully moved here and placed on a new foundation. I’m sure the House Felt All New (and perhaps Rather Fancy) because here on its new foundation, it had Central Air and Central Heat, Oh My~~for the first time.
They hadn’t been in Their Old House since they said goodbye to it 32 years ago, and it was nothing but joy to watch these now 40’s “kids” running up and down the stairs, and re-enacting childhood spats (“Mo-ommmmm, he’s in my room again! Make him get out!”) on the stairs for Mom to get a fresh photo.
The oldest daughter described practicing piano in those years, sitting at the old upright which stood in exactly the same place as my piano stood until last fall when it moved into its new life with a young farm family about 5 miles from here. She described how she was always just sure there was some unseen and silent threat crouching behind the curve of the couch that sat back there in the corner…just waiting to jump at her and scare her while she was practicing, “way in there in the living room”~~so far from Mom who was “way out in the kitchen.”
The son (now farming the home place) told how he so easily sneaked out the front door when he was supposed to be practicing his piano lesson, and Mom remembered how frustrated she got~~because she just knew he was going to do it every time and he still got the jump on her and was gone like a flash.
We invited them to come and hug their old house one more time before it passes into the hands of new owners later this week, because we know about old houses and the hearts that loved them. We know about the memories and the blessings, and how it’s just good to hug the old house~~one more time.
So they came and talked, reminisced and laughed and sent me a wonderful note a few days later thanking us for allowing them to walk back down Memory Lane together. Several times they stopped in their visiting and said things like, “Thank you for what you’ve done with it. It’s so beautiful.” Well, they weren’t admiring my interior decorating skills, you know. That was just their heart thanking my heart for seeing This Old House as a home to be loved, not just as a problem to be solved.
Later this week we will drive away with gratitude and satisfaction. Gratitude for all the blessings and giftings that God has brought to us during these years in This Old House. Satisfaction for the fact that we salvaged it from complete destruction, restored it to the best of our ability, and (based on the facts of the sale) it is now back in business. It has dignity. Its past has been honored and its future secured.
Tomorrow night a 10 year old girl will be coming to check out the bedroom she will soon occupy and (a “WOW!” for a ten-year-old country girl) reassure herself again that….yes, indeed! She is going to have her OWN bathroom!
Living Houses really are a fine gift to our lives, given as a temporary castle and a passing place of rest.
Goodbye, House. You’ve done well.
Nearly wore us out. But you’ve done well.
Thank you, Old House.