A bit of a different twist on Memorial Day themes, but certainly a column based on remembrance. On Friday, after work, I stopped by for a quick visit with my mother who turned 85 in March. It’s been about 3 1/2 years since my father, and her husband of over 60 years, passed away rather suddenly. It took a few years to catch our breath, I think, and sort things out. One thing for sure that a remote farmhouse, the second oldest house in Milford, New Hampshire, was no longer a place for an elderly, though able, woman to be living alone.
I was fifteen when my parents bought this place and even though the move was from one end of Milford to the other, I was aghast at the prospect of leaving a large, practically new home, for this wreck of an antique, located in the middle of huge hay fields, at the and of a half-mile long driveway. It had no dream qualities for me at the time, but that would change.
My father had built, from scratch, a very successful business importing and distributing high-end dinnerware from Europe, mostly Austria, Germany, Scotland and England. The farm property would turn into his retirement haven. They planted blueberries and Christmas trees and later had good success with pick, and cut-your-own, respectively, businesses. But it was the wood cutting, mowing and tinkering around the massive antique barn that brought my father the most joy. After 37 years in the place, it has grown on all of us.
On Friday I called out and finally found my mother on the screen porch, quietly gazing out past the closed-up pool and overgrown Christmas trees. The property has been sold and next week we will begin moving her to a downtown apartment. She claims to be ready and looking forward to it, and the family reckons, each in their own way, with yet another melancholy chapter. This moment on the porch is the one I’ve been waiting for. The moment when it would hit me. This is “home”…and we’re leaving it.
This is a gorgeous place, a remote haven only five minutes from downtown, yet standing in the field at night, it is as quiet and remote as it was over 200 years ago when the home was built. Mowing or working in the fields, one can’t help but think back to the other generations who have worked the same land…taken in the same serene beauty of this place.
My mother seemed to be thinking the same thing. Of the countless memories, parties, family gatherings on this very porch or gathered around the now abandoned pool. How many laughs and animated conversations took place around the dinner table here. This was the very lawn that my mother, in full Sicilian drama, rolled on when I came home at seventeen to tell them my girlfriend was pregnant. My father, stoic, took the news like a soldier. I think of him now, as his children watch over their mother, and help her into the next chapter. Moving downtown, not one hundred yards from the house she was born in, to parents just settled here from Sicily.
We have roots here, and that helps. The property sold to friends of mine and they have a young boy who will have a fascinating little world to call his own. They also have the youth and financial vigor that it takes to own a 50-acre property with seemingly endless needs. It is a special place, though, more than just a homestead. It is as “New Hampshire” as New Hampshire living can get and it keeps one finely in tune with the beauty of our surroundings. It will be a tough couple of months as we do the final sorting-out and finally, at some point, a final good-bye.
As David Bromberg sang years ago in his beautiful “Child’s Song”, a paean on leaving home…”good-bye to this house and all it’s memories…” . I’m sure that always, when I least expect it, a warm summer breeze, or howling winter wind, will bring my mind’s eye quickly back to the farm.
Tags: Memorial Day