Sunday, December 13, 2009

Home For Christmas?

As a little boy I remember listening to the older men speak about "The Old Home Place". It seemed that each of the old folks that my Mom and Dad knew, at one time or another spoke about it. Whenever I was out hunting with the older folks and Dad, I would hear them speak of these mystical or imaginable places but knew of one thing for certain. These were places where families were once raised and where hard work was performed. Places where hardships and sadness were frequent.

But as I actually found where these places were and what old and forgotten family name owned them, nothing that resembled a home could be found. The best I could do was to find a hole in the ground that was once someones old root cellar. Perhaps a couple old and ancient fence poles were barely sticking up out of the ground. I still know of a few "old home places" that remnants of a stone chimney towers over the barely recognizable landscape that once was a home. Trees and shrubbery have over taken the ground that possibly once was manicured. I now understood what an "old home place" really was...a memory that will fade from modern existence.

As I write this, the deal has been finalized on my Mom and Dad's house. A place that they have called home and raised three children for over 43 years. As my sister the Blog Queen has written about in her earlier exquisite blogs, a gas company drilled a well on the mountain above their home. The road building and site preparation caused a massive mudslide to threaten their home and personal safety.

Last week, we all gathered and attempted to hurry mom with her packing and get what things were important out of the house long before the deadline was met. We soon realized, that, in an eleven room house with a 65 year old mother...everything she has collected over 48 years was important and nothing was to be left behind.

I watched the Blog Queen walk through the mud, slowly taking photos of the house that was our home for so many years. I could see in her eyes as her mind began to bring back memories of our childhood and possibly could hear the sound of we children arguing..and yes we did fight with each other most of the day.

She and I walked into the basement and stood looking around the chaos that was once Mom's Christmas decoration stockpile. For some reason, that basement looked so much smaller than it once did. We spoke of times that we remembered and eventually, jointly, brought to remembrance the night that Dad came home from work and took a shower in that basement. Apparently, Dad was a wee bit into "ye ole Christmas spirit" and was tipsy somewhat. At that time, we had an old Buckeye wood burning stove in the basement to heat the house by. Dad was a bit careless when bending over to dry his legs after his shower and ended up with "Buckeye" heat transferred onto his naked backside.

The Blog Queen mentioned how she would love to have a slab of flooring from the original house, which our grandfather had constructed and have her husband to engrave the word "Home" onto it. I thought that it would be a great ideal as well and I shall do my very best to be there when the house is destroyed and find her the nicest slab I can and keep it for her. I can not begin to know how Mom and Dad truly feels about the end of their home. I have lived in many houses through-out my adult life, but none have been my home. This one has been home to us all including the grand children.

I know that none of us had any of this in mind last Christmas when we gathered together as we have always done. I can't even begin to count how many Christmases I have spent in that house. All I really know is, I can count the years that I didn't spend Christmas there on one hand.

I remember the way we grew up all of those years ago. We never had everything that we wanted for Christmas but we always got what we needed and many times, we got one special gift, usually a big item that we really, really wanted. But every year, all of us would be home for Christmas. Little did we know that 2008 would be the last time any type of Christmas cheer would be heard in the old house. Missing this year are the massive amounts of exterior Christmas lights adorning the outside of the place. Empty is the yard of inflatable decorations and plastic illuminated Nativity Scene. No lights of any kind can be seen there tonight and none will ever be turned back on.

I can remember, many years ago, how we were taken to a relatives home on Christmas Eve. Possibly the first and maybe the last time it ever happened but the reason behind doing this was simple, "Just so Santa Claus would come". Now I know what really happened, Dad and another guy had returned to the house and placed our gifts around the tree. Added magic was when we found that our cookies that we placed on the table for Santa had been taken. Not sure if my brother and sister knew it at that time, but I knew it was Daddy.

Hundreds of Christmas memories I have in the old house and by God's blessings I will always remember. Once or twice I was not able to travel to my parent's home for Christmas and I remember sitting home alone thinking about the great things that were going on at that particular time at the old home. Knowing that I was missing new memories and dear family.

The old home was a Christmas shelter not only for all of us, five in all, but occasionally we shared it with other family members. Everyone knows who I am talking about. They are the particular family members that you really couldn't wait for them to arrive and hoped for their departure 15 minutes after they got there. The season was also shared by my Mom's mother and it was every Christmas that she was there. Just didn't seem like it was Christmas when Maw was not around. Then she passed in the mid 70's and things were not the same. A void was there and it would be years before my parents took up the mantle as grand parents themselves.

We grew up in the old house seeing Christmases that were made from prayers and hope, doubtful that 100 dollars were spent for gifts for all of us. We seen them that were made from far better times when nicer, more expensive gifts were given. We seen some years that our tree look like an old Dollar Store tree, skinny to the bone and if it were real, the birds wouldn't roost in it if it was the only bush in the woods. Then watch Mom fight and wool with the newer, bigger tree that she would take hours to set up, decorate to perfection and count each and every light she placed on it.

Years that we would wait for anticipation for the Holiday. Times we had no ideal what we were getting. It really didn't matter what was under the tree, all we knew was that we were having a good Christmas. Regardless of what we got or how many gifts each we received, they were awesome. Years that the decorations would be actual rough pine boughs which were cut by Dad in the woods and placed around doors and windows laced with large strings of multicolored lights. Man I can still smell the pine to this day. So many memories.

I know I can call myself blessed by the old house, my granddaughter spent her first Christmas in it as well thinking to myself that she would spend many more there as I and her Daddy did. Little did I know she would not get to know Christmas there as I do.

Christmas will have a new meaning this year, my parents have a new home in a new location. Mom set up her tree and placed a few decorations here and there, still worn out from the move and traumatized still from losing their home. But I find myself feeling sad realizing the old house will soon, possibly before Christmas, be bulldozed to the ground. If walls could talk, oh the stories those old walls could share, volumes and volumes of books with never the same story, but no more. Just a feeling of loneliness and abandonment by the family it took great care of for over 43 years.

I know in my heart that one day I shall take a ride over to the place where once sat the house. Looking for the two story gray structure that holds so many memories for me. Looking for Mom and Dad's vehicles in the drive and the flowers planted in the yard with loving care by Mom. Only to find that the manicured lawn is now full of old growth trees where my bedroom once stood. Bushes and large underbrush now spring forth where the smell of bread and fried potatoes once emanated from the kitchen.

The old basement where Dad got his "Buckeye" heat tattoo after a shower one night, is now filled with dirt and rock with no apparent sign that it ever existed. Emptied lot now covered and reclaimed by nature, showing no signs that the Walker's ever had raised a small family there. No mere hint of Dad attempting to play his banjo or we kids out in the yard having fun, our imaginations taking us to so many wonderful places.

Our home is no more. It has ceased being our home and now shall hold a new title as ..."The Old Home Place". But so much of what and who we are we owe to it and will remain grateful. We wish we could have helped the old home place but have failed in doing so. Hold no ill against us dear house, for we all love you and will miss you dearly holding memories of you fondly in our hearts and sharing them with all we meet. You have sheltered us and kept us warm most of our lives, awaited patiently for us to return and cherished our children as you did us but sadly ole gray house...we will not be home for Christmas this year or any other year to come. But shall forever visit you in our memories with the Ghost of Christmas Past.