Place

The view from the front porch of my parent’s place in Jackson, Ohio.

I’ve spent quite a lot of time looking at this view over the past 35+ years. Yesterday, my parents moved from this place to be closer to my family and my brother’s family. I am thankful that I like my parents (I know that isn’t the case for everyone) and that I’ll finally have the opportunity to see them regularly, but it is a complicated emotional experience given all the history: the memories, traditions, and comfortable family rituals.

Our first home on this property (a 100 year old farmhouse) burned to the ground. I lost all of my Star Wars figures and accessories in the fire, which at the time seemed the worst part of the tragedy to me. I did find Boba Fett in the yard; he had a jet pack.

This view and porch have been in place since 1980 or 1981. I have realized in the past few weeks that it is the outside of the home that I will miss most. There is a large garden at the back of the property. Picking half-runner beans and snapping them was not my favorite activity as a child, but I loved to eat them. The back deck was always a place to gather and talk and welcome family as they dropped by. The strip of woods on the hill provided a riot of birdsong and was 5-10 degrees cooler than the rest of the property in the summer. Later (when grandchildren came along), a pool for lounging. But more often than not, we’d end up sitting on the porch listening to the wind in the trees, watching the robins, bluejays, cardinals, yellow finches, and red-winged blackbirds. A few days ago, my brother told me that one of his first memories is of me reading a book with my head propped against one of the porch pillars.

Trees have come and gone: a huge pine once stood in the center of the yard (it took years for the grass to grow where the pine stood), the stump of a large maple on the right side of this picture is all that remains of a tree that was probably 100 years old, the shadows in the foreground above are being cast by relative newcomers (12-18 years old), maple and oak, which are just outside the frame to the right and left respectively. I could give the history of the trees which line the driveway and the ones which used to line the driveway (as a 15 year old I panicked while driving a stick shift for the first time, made a sharp left turn into the driveway going about 35 mph and ran directly into one very sturdy old tree which, in spite of my worst efforts, lasted another 15 years), but I’ll spare you most of those details.

I’ve come to understand how much weight of memory those trees have held up for me. I can still see my grandfather up in the branches of a massive, decaying old sycamore as he prepared to fell it. The trees were the backdrop as we put a new roof on the house and my uncle John made up songs and sang them as if they were old favorites. My parents have given ownership of some of the trees to their grandchildren – Zach’s tree, Brooklynn’s tree, and so on. Some of the trees have been transplanted from important locations to remind us of our histories – the loss, joy, suffering, goodness, all of it. So many nights I would walk out to the front porch, wait until the motion sensor lights extinguished, and sit listening to the movements of those trees.

The maple that is providing some of the shade in the above photo.

All of this is to say that it was a good place to live and grow up and bring my family. The new owners have five small children. As I sat on the front porch, likely for the final time, my mom walked the property with two of those children, teaching them the names of the plants and giving them a little of the history of the trees.

One thought on “Place

  1. Well written, John. Trees have a way of sowing memories that are often harvested many years later. Sometimes the harvest is painful, but more often than not the harvest is a beautiful recollection of times and seasons we never want to forget. Thanks for sharing such a heartfelt memoir.

    Like

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