Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I realize we have lived here, in Virginia, for over a month now, and I’ve said little.


Let me rephrase that. I realize I’ve blogged little. I’ve said plenty, mostly in the way of how annoying the insane amount of traffic here is, how annoying it is when people refuse to pick up after themselves, and how annoying it is when you can’t recruit anyone to give a decent backrub. There’s been a good deal of moaning and groaning every time I try to hoist myself off the couch or up the stairs, and yesterday’s ultrasound had the perinatologist telling me how “huge” my 29-week-old unborn twins are at 3 ½ pounds each. Humph. By my calculations, then, each placenta weighs about 40 pounds.


At least it feels that way. And, doggone it, looks that way.


So there are probably a lot of things I could post about, but I’m sticking with a story that happened soon after we arrived.


We were staying with my parents until the moving truck came. One day, we decided to drive out to our old house. We loved this house. We had rented it dirt-cheap, and the river ran close by and a plantation butted up against it. What it lacked in electrical fortitude (you could only plug in about 2 things at a time), it more than made up in character. Built in 1774, its wide plank pine floors, tall ceilings, hand-carved baseboards and walnut railing, deep windowsills, and large center hallways hearkened back to a different time. My husband put a month’s worth of work into it, re-plastering (that’s real horse hair in there) and painting and ripping up carpet and sanding floors. When we moved in, we had two small children and two five-month olds, and when we moved out, we had five small children and a one-month old. We loved the openness of the land around us, the huge magnolia that overshadowed the porch and was alive when George Washington was, and the fact that we knew its history.


But as we drove down the route near the house that day, I had a foreboding feeling. The magnolia was clearly visible, but the house? Where was the house?




“Did they tear the house down?” I whispered. “Ethan, this is going to be traumatic for the kids if they tore the house down.”


Shortly before we moved, a developer had purchased the house and the surrounding land. His intention, he announced, was to turn the land into a public park and renovate the house, turning it into a clubhouse.


We saw no clubhouse.





The children, all but two of them, piled out of the van. Most of them were amazingly un-traumatized, fascinated by the piles of brick and siding and the felled giant sycamore and grateful for the chance to get out and stretch.







Two of them did this:



And my oldest? Well, he is partly my boy after all. As soon as he saw the remains of the house, he started tearing up. “WHAT?” he choked out hoarsely. “They tore it down? It was the most wonderful house in the world, and they just tore it down?”




I was swallowing my own lump. I know the house was old and in sore need of lots of money and attention. But the wonderful memories it held for me! I remember wondering so many times how many generations of women had hung their clothes out on the line as I hung mine; how many generations of children joined mine in climbing the magnolia, running (and riding) down the large hallways and exploring the outlying fields for groundhogs and beehives and wildflowers for mamas; how many men had looked at this house and sighed with relief that they were HOME; how many other families had carved their names into the beech tree.


But Ethan is not one to let emotionality and sentimentality fester, and he quickly turned these heaps of brick and roofing into a lesson about the inevitable decay and death of all things of this world and how we are to store up treasures in heaven.


Benjamin was listening. He stopped mumbling about the terrible things he would do with his b.b. gun to the President (yes, of the United States) for letting this happen and starting asking questions about the Highest Authority. “I know God is good, and I’m not saying I don’t believe that, but if God is good, why does He let bad stuff like this happen?”


Oh, child. God IS good, and how thankful I am that He was good enough to give you the papa He gave you who can answer your questions, which go beyond your eight years, with answers that fit your eight years.


When we pulled away, he still looked like this:




but was no longer threatening national security. He was no longer angry, just sad.


However . . . .

That very night, Ethan’s live trap caught a raccoon in my parents’ attic. We woke Ben up to see the raccoon before Ethan hauled it the requisite 10 miles away. And you know what lies about 10 miles away from my parents’ house? The perfect raccoon house, with felled trees and crannies and holes to climb into and the river just a hop, skip, and jump away.



 (Can you see the raccoon? It's to the left of the yellow oar and down a little. Look for the striped tail.)

In the morning, we told Benjamin that our torn-down house was a house once more. He smiled, and then giggled and started listing things a raccoon would LOVE about living there.


And I betcha that raccoon does love it, too.


It better.



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