Green Hill Farm: A Retrospective #2 — Perseverance

There’s a sign that hangs in our vestibule or small covered porch that says “PERSEVERANCE,” and it’s been our mantra since moving to Green Hill Farm. My husband and I were in our early 30s when we decided to take on this project. Sometimes when we look back at pictures we say, “WHAT in the world were we thinking? Were we INSANE?!!” Whatever the answer, it was the path taken. This path has lead us on a journey that has been difficult and challenging at times but rewarding and enriching, too. Anyway, we all know that anything worthwhile isn’t easy. Which brings me to the next piece of our story.
The first day we visited the house after construction had started was surreal. It was a hot, humid day in June, and the grass was starting to need cutting. I could smell the fragrance of something blooming that I didn’t recognize, and the wrens were singing away–weedeater, weedeater, weedeater, tweet! As I walked toward the house and started to process what I was seeing, I felt sick to my stomach. The large, white columns that had stoically stood sentinel in front of the house had been removed from the front porch; and where they’d majestically once stood, skinny, dark, wooden poles leaned in to hold-up the roof. The porch floor had been completely ripped out, and planks lay in piles around the yard. I understood that this is what needed to happen for progress to take place, but it was still jarring.
I remembered seeing Grandma sweep the floor of that porch so many times, I remembered sitting on the porch steps on Sunday afternoons listening to my aunts and uncles talk and visit as my Granddaddy rocked in the old, white rocking chair that his papa built years ago, and I remembered…I remembered all of their faces–some of them not here anymore. I took a deep breath and thought to myself, “Chin-up! This is going to get worse before it gets better.” And I was right.
I walked into what used to be the kitchen…..more rubble. It looked like the house had been hit by a bomb! I wanted to cry. As if all this wasn’t disturbing enough, in walks the project manager–I’ll call him Mack. Mack was short and stout; not so much like a teapot, but more like a barrel. He had flowing, red hair that framed a round, ruddy face. He looked kind of like a Viking. As Mack reached out to shake our hands, I noticed his charming tattoo that read, “_ _ _ _ YOU.” I’ll let you fill in the blanks. Anyway, Mack proceeded to say that he didn’t know WHAT our contractor had told us, but it certainly was going to take A LOT longer than 6 months to restore this house, and it definitely was going to cost A LOT more money, too. He beckoned us to follow him from room to room as he pointed out everything that was wrong, tired, and basically not good about the house. And after a short pause and with a frank look on his face, he said, “If I were you, I’d just bulldoze it!” A moment passed, and I thought, “What?! Did he just say what I thought he said?” I felt hot. Anger and tears began welling up inside of me. I stood there for another second, blinking back a tear, and trying to steady my voice. “We’re NOT bulldozing this house,” I quietly said.
Here’s the thing: Mack wasn’t a bad guy, and he turned out to be a good carpenter. It really wasn’t his fault that he was coming across as an insensitive arse. He didn’t know about my fond childhood memories of bugging Grandma to show me the barrel vault ceilings in the upstairs bedrooms when I was little, because surely a princess would have a curved ceiling like that. Or my memory of sneaking into the house with a childhood friend via the window over the staircase that happened to be about 15 feet off the ground, using Granddaddy’s old, rickety ladder.
On a more somber note, he didn’t realize that both my great-grandfather and my great uncle had both passed away within the imperfect walls of this house. Nor did he know the story of my great-grandmother sitting in the parlor, holding her nine-year-old and eldest son, Ernest in her arms as he died of meningitis, because they had barely missed the last train leaving rural Thaxton going to the City of Roanoke and a hospital.
No, Mack didn’t know about ALL those memories and stories. He just saw a really old house that was at an extremely critical point. To him, it was just a dusty, dirty place with uneven floors and absolutely no right angles. He was looking at the structure of the house, but what he wasn’t seeing was its soul.

37 Comments »

  1. Reblogged this on fourth generation farmgirl and commented:

    I’m sharing this post again, because today is the 11th anniversary of moving into a home that has been in my family for over 100 years. A home that my husband and I spent a challenging 1 1/2 years restoring. I’m also sharing this post, because it was the first bit of writing that I’d done in over 20 years. Since last year marked a decade of living on my family’s farm and in my ancestral home, I wanted to reflect on the experience. After I wrote about my memories and feelings regarding the beginning of the restoration process, I realized how much I enjoyed writing. This little reflection is why I started my blog. I hope you enjoy it.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. That was a lovely post Tonya. The pictures of your ancestors at the farm looking so happy, It must have been pretty hart-breaking at first when they had to knock bits down in order to restore them, but now you must be delighted that you stuck to your guns and did the work. You have a beautiful farm and loads of lovely memoires. You must be so proud
    I am also glad you wrote this as it started you blog which I absolutely love! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy, you are so kind! Thank you for your generous comments. I am glad that I “stuck to it.” I really can’t imagine my life anywhere else. When I think about all of the wonderful people who have come into our lives because of the restorations (house, cottage, barn) as well as the farm in general, I feel very fortunate. Restoring as well as living in a 200 year-old house is challenging, but always worthwhile. I feel connected to this place; it’s really a part of who I am. I’m so happy to be able to share it with lovely people like you. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed reading this post. I can’t imagine the stress, anxiety, pressure, and worry you must have gone through restoring a old family home. But memories like that are always worth fighting to preserve. All the picture made me smile too especially the ones in front of the cars.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Your children and grandchildren will be so thankful to you, even if at some point they need to re-restore some bits of the farm! It is a wonderful thing to be so anchored in a place.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I so enjoy reading your blogs and this one brought tears to my eyes….all those wonderful memories!! So glad you did not bulldoze and you are bringing more wonderful memories to this beautiful home.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this post.
    You’ve captured what a home is. Especially, what grandma & grandpa’s home is when you’re a child. I’ve fond memories in a lake house, and my husband has fond memories in a farmhouse, and now our children have fond memories of The Big Blue House, and so we are all caught up in fractions of the past, mourning for a home in places that are still there, but not as they were. It’s a bittersweet sentiment.
    On the other hand, we bought our 1920 home from third-generation farm girl, although in much of her life, the land around this house had been sold off as the city extended itself from the center. We enjoy its oldness and its lack of right angles. We enjoy the little land that’s left (although it’s a lot for the city.) We are those people who bought the old house, and people still come, asking can they look around, can they stroll the property for old time’s sake. Of course they can. We understand.
    And also, the song of wrens — well done. I hear them right now.
    Your home is a labor of love, as all homes should be, but yours is enriched several times over by the layers of generations.

    Liked by 1 person

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