Sunday, February 9, 2014

Day 9 - The home place

Jane loved her cliff house. As a wedding gift, John and his brothers had taken Sterling’s idea and turned it into a reality. The little house, built in 1885, had two large rooms. The front room with the view of the river held the sitting room and kitchen. The large wood cooking stove was enough to heat the house in the winter and the windows opened in the summer to keep the house cool. The granite back wall held a constant temperature making it perfect for the bedroom. Andrew was born the year after they married. He was an adorable child and always happy. Mary Leoni came along two years later. For the growing family, they added a wall in the backroom to afford themselves some privacy. The house was a little crowded as the kids starting walking but it was still comfortable.
However, when Jane found herself pregnant with the third child, it became apparent that more space was needed. Laura was born in 1870. With three kids, the crowding became more evident. Jane wanted to add on to the cliff house but there wasn’t much room. Not wanting to bother John with her concerns, she started scouting for land to build a new house. There was plenty to choose from since the family shared the acres and it was open to all.
She knew she didn’t want to live in the Hollow. She had grown up on the river and was loath to leave it. Like many people, the river held her captive. She couldn't imagine living without it as a background. Not far from the cliff house was a piece of land. The farmland was on the river and she knew that flooding could destroy it but the river didn’t flood all that often. There was a hill backing up the farmland that had a small plateau, plenty big enough for a large house and eventually a pump house. There was a stream that ran next to the property that would provide easy access to water. The river would be visible from the house and yet, not so close as to be overwhelming.
She sat doodling at the table next to the oil lamp. The three kids were asleep and John had gone to town. It was late and he would probably stay over and return in the morning. Town was several miles away and not a safe trip in the dark.
She drew her idea of the ideal house. It would be two stories. Their bedroom would be on the top floor with a window opening on the view of the crops and the river. It would be big enough for their bed, a crib for the babies, and a separate area for a closet and area to wash up. The other half of the upstairs could be split into two rooms. One for the boys and one for the girls. Downstairs, she drew a kitchen area and a separate area for family and friends to visit. She didn’t expect fancy stuff so she left out a bathroom but did add a large pantry. She figured the outhouse would fit nicely in the back of the house, close enough for the kids to get to without being in the way. Of course, the land would have to have room for the chickens and other livestock.
She drew her idea of the front of the house. It had a large porch so she could relax there when the work was done. The kitchen also had a view of the river as did the front room. The door opened into the middle of the house and the stairs were directly in front. Her bedroom had two large windows and adding curtains as a touch of whimsy, she blew out the light and went to bed.
John woke her early in the morning as he returned from town. His business had been successful and they had a new horse to add. It would be helpful with the plow and the kids could learn to ride. In fact, they could use the horse to go to school since it was quite a distance from their home. Jane had taught the kids their letters and they were quick learners. They wouldn't be able to go all the time but the horse would be helpful.
John picked up the drawings that Jane had left of the table.
“What’s this,” he asked.
“Oh, nothing,” she replied. “I was just doodling before bed. Give them to me and I will throw them away.”
“Nothing doing,” he said, “but I did make a slight alteration.”
She looked confused.
“I saw them when I came in. Looks pretty interesting but don’t you think you’d want a balcony from the bedroom? It would be a nice place to enjoy the mornings and the evenings. See, I drew it in for you."
Sure enough, the balcony was there. It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.
“You’re not the only one to think this place is getting a little too small,” John remarked.
Set back against the hill, the daunting task of building the house took on a life of its own. The forested area had to be cut back. This was helpful as John and Sterling loaded the cut trees on the wagon to take to the sawmill. There was plenty of natural materials to build the house. The river roared on. It was spring and the snow was melting in the hills beyond. The river was higher than normal so it made bringing in the materials even harder as the dirt road tended to wash out.
Jane was busy removing any plants growing at the cliff house. Some of the vegetables from the previous year had self-seeded and she was not going to leave them behind. The kids were excited and split their time helping their mother and getting in their father’s way. He loved the help although some of it had to be redone. It was good for Andrew to learn new skills that he would need when he was grown. He figured he had lots of time to teach him but starting young was a good idea.
The foundation was the hard part. The house site was level with the river. Unlike the cliff house, it needed to be raised a good six feet. George, Jesse, and Lafayette were given the challenge to find flat rocks that would form the foundation. Once the foundation was set, the four brothers started with the construction. Jane wasn’t picky but did have an idea that it would be nice to have the porch and balcony decorated with cross lattice work. She also wanted the window to have real working shutters to keep the cold out when it snowed.
It took six weeks to complete the house. It might have been done faster but John and his brother’s had crops to get in. They planted the corn and tobacco between the road and the river. It was good fertile soil and they all shared in the work for equal profit. Tobacco was a good cash crop and the corn was used for food and feeding the animals.
While the guys were busy, Jane finished the garden and started stringing new beds for the kids. Andrew had his own room. He was the only boy. Eventually, she hoped, he would have to share it. She made a new bed for Mary Leoni who was 2 and a new crib for baby Laura. They would share the second bedroom. She plucked enough feathers to make new mattresses and when the house was finished, everything would be ready to move in. The furniture John had made for them was special and she looked forward to putting it in their new bedroom overlooking the river.
Moving day had arrived. They loaded the wagon with the rest of their belongings. It was a beautiful day and the weather was fine. The baby would not remember the day but Andrew would. He would talk about the day they moved into the new house with the memory of a 4 year old child. He would only live to enjoy it for 10 days for he passed away at age 14 in 1880. Victor, William, and Lillie would never know him but the other kids would share his joy at the new house and so he lived on in their hearts.
Originally, Jane was loath to leave the cliff house but soon found that the “Home Place”, which it would be known as, was her true home. It lasted 100 years until it was consumed by fire in the 1990’s. 

Note: What remains today is the foundation. The trees that were cut down in 1870 have consumed the land once more. The stream still runs next to the house. The river still floods but the foundation of the “Home Place” survives. Just as the foundation of the home still remains, it is also the foundation of the family and it endures as well.

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