I’ve heard the story about my grandparent’s first home many times over the years. A granary on the family farm that they repurposed into a modest house after getting married. Two small stories, one room on the bottom and a second stacked right on top of it. They got married in 1947 in rural Virginia– there was no indoor bathroom and heat was provided courtesy of a fireplace. When they talk about their first home, they still look at each other and smile as I imagine they did 68 years ago, except with more knowing. Less mystery about what lies ahead.
This past weekend I had a chance to visit the site of their first home. The house is still there and still sound enough to explore. Additions were made later, but it’s easy to get a good feel for those two rooms. They’ve been vacant for some time, now. Window panes are broken or missing. The floor is scattered with leaves and the paint on the ceiling is peeling, but I could stand in the what was the kitchen, look out the window and imagine my grandmother doing the same. I could see the two of them in the glow of the fireplace in the winter. Upstairs, I imagined an early morning breeze through the windows in the spring as the sun rose over the mountains and cast an orange-ish pink glow to the whole room.
Despite the particular cold, damp, gray-ness that accompanies the natural decay of things, I could still see the warmth. The firelight. The early morning sun. The way that even years past it’s time, a place is never about the structure, but instead about the people who inhabited it.