When I was a child there were orchards all around my house. I liked the old ones best, with their dark, gnarled branches and thick, tangled grass. They were like the mysterious forests in my favorite books: hidden, magical places where anything could happen.
At the back of one of my favorite orchards was an old, crumbling homestead. At the center of sagging barnes, hedges turned wild, and abandoned agricultural equipment, sat a quaint red brick house with pale trim and old vines creeping romantically up its chipped sides. It seemed like it had been abandoned for a very long time, and when I peered in the dusty windows, it’s interior was stipped and sad looking.
I loved it anyway, and over the years I told myself dozens of stories centered around this mysterious, forgotten place.
The trouble with old orchards, I found out when I was older, is that they are expensive to maintain. And as the population of my little town grew and land increased in value, more and more of them were turned into heaping piles of smoldering branches, then barren brown spaces dotted with noisy construction equipment.
Eventually the homestead was all that was left standing on it’s old land, exposed and stripped of all it’s pretty mystery. Ominous red exes appeared on the dusty windows. The barn disappeared one day, then the moldering agricultural equipment. The uprooted hedges left gaping holes in the ground.
The year before, another old (but less romantic) house up the street had been burned to the ground to make way for new construction. I’d watched the fire flicker behind the red-marked windows, then the roof cave in. When the house had been reduced to a smoking black pile of debri, the watching fire trucks sprayed it down, and the curious crowd had dispersed.
The orchard house faced the same fate, I heard from my parents. It’s days were numbered.
I walked by often. Everytime I passed the house I whispered a very small prayer for its preservation. I felt silly and childish for doing so, not only because I knew it was just a house, but because it’s destruction was certain. I was a teenager now, and I knew better about the cold practicality of the real world.
I was inside one day, I remember. There was a window in front of me that looked out the back of our house to where new homes had taken the places of the orchards of my childhood, surrounded by uneven plots of bare dirt and fresh, sharp-edged asphalt streets. I was probably reading, but I don’t remember for sure. What I do remember is I was looking down when I glimpsed the movement of something large out of the corner of my eye. I looked up and out through that window.
The old house from the orchard was creeping down the street toward me.
I remember thinking I was dreaming at first. I remember going to the window and craning my neck to see better what was going on. I saw that the house was on a platform behind a very large truck. It moved slowly, people circling it carefully, watching and shouting instructions to go and stop to the driver. All day and the day after that the house crept closer and closer, and then it was set down on a new patch of cleared dirt a few houses away from ours. I could see it perfectly from that back window.
I still can
It’s new owners have made a yard and a garden around it. New green vines creep up it’s sides and at night the windows glow golden. At Christmas, white lights hang from it’s freshly painted eaves and a wreath adorns the front door.
There are two things I feel deep in my bones when I see the house there, always in the corner of my eye when I go back to the home I grew up in. The first is that God is not too big or too practical for even our smallest and most whimsical heartbreaks.
The second is that nothing is too hopeless or desolate for a new beginning, even if everything about it must be torn down and uprooted before the lights can come back on.
Christina Jones is a US writer for Press Service International
Christina Jones is a Press Service International young writer from the USA.