Thursday, July 5, 2007


I've been thinking about "home" the past few days:
When I pull into my driveway and climb out of the car, there is the scent of chamomile. I don't know why, but at the farm I grew up on, and this one, there is a short stubby chamomile plant that grows where we park. Chamomile is the scent of getting home, or saying goodbye to a friend you have walked out to the car.

While I was peeling sticks the other day, I had this feeling it was going to rain in a bit. The sky was blue with lovely puffy clouds drifting by. I wondered what had triggered that premonition. Then it struck me...I could smell Balm of Gilead (Balsam Popple). They grow down by the lake east of the house. The wind had changed and brought their scent toward me. It did rain later. "Bombagillian" has always been the scent of approaching rain.

Today, while I drove past "the farm" (which means my parent's farm to all of us here) I stopped a few minutes to watch a neighbor with his claw-type machine rip the roof off of the old log cabin my parents bought in 1975. This is the house I grew up in. It was built before the turn of the century and was crafted out of hand-hewn cedar logs. The sill logs rested on large flat stones placed at each corner. Tamarack poles supported the upper story. A clay dug out cellar was accessible from outside behind the house and that is where we stored our potatoes and carrots all winter long. In some ways that house was frail; it took so much work just to keep it habitable. The last few years I lived there, it seemed like a sieve. Mice, birds, bats, and garter snakes made appearances when I least expected them. I didn't appreciate that type of living. On the other hand, that old house stood on top of that clay hill and weathered so many storms. It seemed so solid.

Today the house is coming down. First the roof; then some folks are going to take the logs apart and restore them. Someday that old house is going to be lived in and loved again. I dug through my box of childhood photos when I got home and could only find four with some glimpse of the house in the background. None of them really were "of the house." None of them really conveyed what it looked like. How could something that was the shelter of my life for thirty years somehow not have been really captured on film?

What do I remember about that house?
I remember the floor sloped downward because the cellar was under only half of the house. It was like the kitchen end was uphill to the livingroom end of the main room. The boards on the walls were rough sawn 14 inch boards from Rajala's Lumber Mill. Mom put a clear finish on them so they could be washable (sortof). Two of them were very dark compared to the others. Mom and Dad were two boards short when they enclosed the staircase, so Dad pulled a couple of weathered boards off the corral fence to finish up the house. I remember how the ceilings were only 7 feet high in the highest places. The doorways between rooms were much shorter still. We were a short statured family and never noticed. A few visitors had to bend down just to stand in our kitchen though. A highschool boyfriend stopped by once. I don't know what he was expecting, but he was not impressed. He exclaimed that there wasn't one single thing in that house that was square. Being naive, I didn't know what he meant. He sat on my parent's sofa and pointed out all the different trim and boards and walls and such that did not meet at square angles. (None of them did actually) I guess if you are raised in a crooked little house you will need an outsider to point out how ridiculous the structure is. Being young, I could not fathom how my house could bother him so much. Eventually I caught on. The house was different in every way a house could be different. It's not always comfortable to be near someone or something that is different-especially when they don't appologize for it-or even notice the fact.
I found a lot of childhood photos of the inside of the house in my search today. My sister and I look happy in them. We are laughing, celebrating birthdays and holidays, playing with kittens, doing homework... Since Mom and Dad decided to tear the place down we've talked quite a bit about our lives there. It's nice to have someone who remembers where the creaks in the floor were. We are pretty sure we were lucky to grow up in such and interesting old building. It was home. In a few more weeks, it will not exist at the farm anymore. In my heart and memory, that old house will always be the place I learned about what it was to "be home."

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