Home--A Farmhouse in St. Charles
Elizabeth J. Adams



It wasn't until Waldo, my four-month-old kitten, jumped onto my lap and looked up at me with his sleepy eyes and his soft meow reached my ears that I even realized that I had been driving down Fergus Road. I reached down and ran my hand over his soft warm fur and was rewarded with his contented purring that always seemed to relax us both. Up ahead, on the right, I spotted a single light in the window of the Prairie Saloon, meaning I'm only five miles from home now. Home--that word sets in to motion a million thoughts racing through my mind. “What the hell is home anyway?” I wondered. "Do I really even know what home is?" For the last twenty years I had never thought about anywhere I lived as being my home.

I started to slow my car down and I found myself pulling into the empty lot on the hill at the corner of Fergus and Turner Roads, where the oldest farmhouse in St. Charles used to be. It had burnt down ten years before, after an unknown person or persons had murdered my step-cousin Jim and then started a fire in an attempt to cover up the evil deed. For over one hundred years the small two-story wood frame house that had been built on the hill had rested there looking out over the immeasurable open land, as if it were there to keep a watchful eye on the ever-changing terrain. Lost in my own wondering thoughts about seeing my mom again and trying to live here in Michigan once more, I hardly noticed the sun rising up in the east. With Waldo, who was now comfortably curled up in my lap sound asleep, I started my car back up and pulled onto Turner Road. Just one more mile and I would be arriving at my folks' house, just in time for breakfast. The thought of that alone brought a feeling of familiarity to me that was accompanied by a sense of security.

As I made my way down Turner Road toward the house where my parents lived, I could almost smell the coffee that by now would be brewing and the scent of the bacon that my dad always cooked in the broiler. After the bacon was done, dad always put the bacon on a plate and set it back in the oven to keep it warm, and he would pour the bacon grease into a frying pan and use it to fry the eggs. When I was growing up, the eggs would be collected every morning from the hens we raised. The chickens are gone now, but even after all the years that had passed since that time, I can still taste the freshness of those eggs.

The house that I was now driving toward is the last house on Turner Road; there are only six houses on the entire road, each on the right side and spaced a quarter of a mile from each other. In front and behind the houses are hundreds of acres of well-maintained farmland that at one time had been all swamp. After the settlers had moved into this region in the mid 1800s, the swamp was drained and beneath it was some of the darkest, most fertile farmland in the state. They had named it the Prairie Farms, as to why I'm not sure, when in truth it was all the Shiawassee Flatlands that even today are filled with wildlife of all kinds. With the bright rays from the rising sun I could see that the fields were all planted with a mixture of soybeans, field corn, and sugar beets that in another month or so would be ready for harvesting.

As I reached my parents' house I could see the flag that was flying in the light breeze at the top of the flagpole. For many years, the flagpole had been centered in the front of the house, but it now reaches out over the roof from the back yard. At some point in the past five years they had moved the flag pole from its original position, and it was now located in front of the clothesline. Next to the flagpole is another pole with a 150 year-old black metal dinner bell sitting on top, one which has not been used since my childhood. On the same pole halfway up is a bird feeder. In between the flag poll and the dinner bell is a small windmill with a sign in the front that says, "Grandma and Grandpa's House." As far as I could tell, however, the flagpole being moved was the only thing that had been changed.

In the yard there were still twenty large oak and walnut shade trees that had to be hundreds of years old. The trees had always seemed to create the illusion that the three acres of yard seemed much larger than they actually are. The spacious lawn is green and well manicured. There were flowers of all varieties everywhere I looked. Bright colors of pink, red, yellow and purple dotted the yard. Running up and down the trees were five or six members of a squirrel family that had been there for as long as I can remember. Dad had built a feeder for them in the backyard so that each and every day they could find nourishment from the field corn he always stocked for them to eat.

As I crossed the bridge and onto the driveway, I could see that all of the outbuildings were still there. Although they appeared worn with age and the whitewash paint had started to peel, everything was just how I remembered it being since the last time I was here. On the left there was the double garage with its antique sliding doors. Next to the garage was the old chicken coop, then came the two-story grainery. When I was young, I would go up into the attic-like area upstairs and daydream about the things most young girls dream about, such as my wedding day and who I would get married to. Sitting at the end of the driveway is the barn with its two brick silos looming out in front of it. Even though the roof is gone from one of them, to the knowing eye the brick on the top that was engraved with the date December 7, 1941 is still in place. On the far side of the barn is the hundred-foot tool shed where, without looking inside, I know I would see a dozen or so John Deere tractors and every kind of tool a person could ever imagine.

The farmhouse itself is a three bedroom, two-story barn shaped home with white siding and red shutters and black roof tiles. I glanced up briefly to the second story window in the front of the house; the room inside is one of the two bedrooms located upstairs. The one in front had always been my bedroom, and I could remember spending many lonely days just looking out that window wishing that there were more to see than just fields planted with crops. I noticed that the front porch had been redone with a new indoor-outdoor carpet that was now a gray color instead of the red it had been for over twenty years. On the porch they had added a few chairs and a table that seemed to add a cozy look to it. As I drove by the side kitchen window, I could see my parents sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee. Before I could even stop the car and get out, my mom was at the back door waving at me and looking so happy to see me.

I got out, grabbed one of my suitcases from the backseat and made my way up the back steps and through the door into the utility room. We all greeted each other as I removed my shoes and wandered into the large kitchen. I had a seat in one of the four chairs that surrounded the round dark oak table as my mom poured me a much-needed cup of coffee. Both my mom and dad could sense that I was tired and didn't press me for any details of my trip up from Florida. The only thing that my mom did ask me was, "What do you intend to do with that cat?" Joking, I told her, " I'm going to make him a bed in my room, and that cats' name is Waldo." That brought a swift reaction from her: "The hell you are." It seems that I had forgotten that my mom had no sense of humor when it came to having pets in the house, so I quickly informed her that he would be fine outside.

I sat there drinking my coffee and looking around the kitchen; it still looked the same to me. The three large aerial pictures that had been taken from an airplane years before--of the different farms and the homes that sat on them, including the old house on the hill which my parents owned, were still on the wall behind the table. The only difference I could see now was a new clock above the door that led into the utility room that chimed a different birdcall at every hour.

From my chair I could see into the living-room, and I noticed that my parents had purchased a new VCR. I wondered if they even knew how to operate it, but never asked. On the wall beside the television, they had hung at least ten new graduation pictures of my nieces and nephews. That seemed to take up the remaining wall space that had been left after they had hung the pictures of my brothers and sisters. Other than those few things, nothing else had changed. The couch was in the same spot it had always been in, as well as the two recliners.

After I finished my coffee, I yawned and decided to get some sleep. I put my cup in the sink and made my way to the door that opened up to the stairway that would take me up to my old bedroom. I sat down on one of the twin brass beds and reflected on how much my room had changed. It was now painted a nice cream color and the only picture on the wall was a photo of two little twin boys wearing bib overalls, with one boy is saying to the other, "Been farming long?" When I had lived at home as a teenager the walls in my room were painted a bright pink and there were posters of Ozzy Osborn and Ted Nugent everywhere.

I must have been very tired because when I woke up it was well after midnight and the beam from the yard light was shining in through the spare room across the hall from mine. I decided to go check on Waldo, who was sitting on the back porch as I went out the door. I sat down on one of the steps and lit up a cigarette as Waldo climbed up into my lap. The moon was so bright that night it seemed to illuminate the entire yard. Breathing deeply, I could smell the fresh dew on the grass and in the distance I could make out a few tiny lights from houses that were three miles off. It hit me then like a bolt of thunder: HOME. This is home. Home isn't necessarily a place; it's a frame of mind. No matter how long you're gone and no matter how it's changed, when you are there it brings a feeling of peace to your heart, and life just seems right.

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