hill house

HOMESTEAD

According to Grand-pops, the Weald family homestead on Milkweed Lane, was not built. It grew.

Yeah, Yeah Pops. What ever you say think his five grandchildren as they snicker and roll their eyes. He takes no notice of the mocking and continues. “I have lived here my whole life. Born right here in this  very house eighty-nine years ago.”  Grand-Pops motions to the front of the house sipping noisily at his coffee. When he sets it on the table he doesn’t notice the cat making a move for it. The children have no choice but to settle in. Once  Grand-Pops starts  reminiscing there is no getting away.   Even the dogs get comfortable. Kids and dogs, together on the porch, politely  waiting to be free, the cat happily lapping up cold coffee.

Having heard the tale so many times the Weald Kids mouth the words as the old man recites them. “When my family first came to this land,” Pops begins, “The house was nothing more than a hill. My father, your great-grandfather, climbed atop that hill to survey the land. He looked over fields and forest, all one hundred and ninety acres. He saw endless blue sky and he breathed fresh air. He saw the pond covered with lilies and surrounded by  cattail. This, he decided, is a good place to live. My mother, your great-grandmother, standing alongside the hill agreed. She said “I think here is the perfect place for my rocker chair.”   It was settled, great-grandfather  walked over to great-grandmother, put his young arms around her swollen belly and decreed. “We will make a good life here.” grandmother smiled, the baby kicked and the scene was so serene it was practically picturesque. Of course, no matter how corny and surreal it seems to those with no emotional connection to the family, what happens when nature witnesses such deep love, so humble and sincere… well, it is a powerful thing.

When the day came for the Wealds to take possession of their newly purchased property they arrive with  dreams to nourish them, a tent to shelter them and not much more. They hire a farmer to transport them in his one horse wagon but he just does a drive by and drops the couple at the end of the lane-way.  As they began the trek up the long lane, on this the happiest day of their lives one which was about to get happier, it began to rain. Down pouring, wind whipping and thunder clapping a ruddy stirred-up torrential storm. Electric bolts cracked the sky and it was scary. All they had to shield them was an old canvas two-man tent. Great grandfather had planned to erect a temporary shelter right away. Something to keep his family safe until the house was built. At this moment he felt deflated and defeated. Great Grandmother, always the optimist and crazy in love, turned to her beloved and said loudly. “Home sweet home” but Great Grandfather couldn’t hear  her above the storm.

Approaching the top of the lane, dismally wet and silently praying for shelter, a wonderous thing happens.  The storm vanishes, the sky clears and the sun shines. To the west a rainbow appears, a colourful prism arching across the landscape. Framing the hill in front of the pond.  The newlyweds are awestruck, they admire the view as the sunshine warms them.

When the reverie breaks,  so does Great-Grandmothers smile.  She groans and clutches at her abdomen, the action bringing her husband to attention.  It is time.  Panicked, Great-Grandfather begins shouting out orders. “Get the tent, we need towels, the mid-wife comes next week!”

Great-Grandmother not listening,  moves calmly toward the hill. She  sees something that was not there before. Behind a thick hedge of cedar there appears to be a railing. A railing that looks as if to fence in a porch.  The porch  has a floor made of flag stone. Flag stone in varying shades of black, grey and blue, creating a wide path, level and accommodating.  The path travels the base of the hill, where it meets the hill the stone changes direction moving upward forming a wall. Now the facade of a house, the stone wall is punctuated with a bright green door. Large windows flank  either side of the door producing  a pleasing symmetry. At the north end sits two rocking chairs. Side by side, just as Great-grandmother had imagined.

There is no time to wonder or question. Opening the door the young couple enter into a wide welcome. A kitchen with similar stone floor as the porch  is equipped with warm pine cupboards. An open living space with floors made of the same warmth to the left.  Behind the kitchen is a bedroom.  The bedroom houses a bed of green grass, soft and fragrant,  and without a doubt meant for mother and me. Stepping across the threshold both, soon-to-be, parents relax.  All worry and anxiety dissipate. Instinctively mother climbs into the waiting bed …and here I am.

Over the years the Weald family have added things like plumbing and electric. They’ve collected comfortable furnishings, proper beds and home-made rag rugs. The cedar shingled roof and window dormers materialized on their own, but the wood stove and chimney, Father put in. With every addition to the family the hill house would provide more space. On those nights when storms raged and the family slept the house  made needed changes and rearrangements. Sometimes the house knew, even before mother, that the family would soon be growing.

Today Mr. and Mrs. Weald junior and their five children live in the hill house at Milkweed lane. Mr and Mrs. Weald senior, Pops and Gran, reside in a proper little cottage built for them on the east side of the pond. The homes face one another, keeping the family connected but still allowing for privacy. Grand-Pops still helps out around the farm, as much as he can, but mostly he likes to tell whom ever will listen about how things used to be. His grandkids might think his story outlandish. They may think his marbles have been lost. But whether they believe him or not he was there. And who would know the truth better than the guy the house grew for?

 

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