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An hour drive to a downhill dirt road -which is now paved- blemished with potholes dug in response to the neighbors dangerously racing down, as if they were being chased by an angry sheriff. The weathered, yet massive ancient oak tree in the front of the yard that once flourished tall and wide with bright lively green leaves is now dying and a home to our neighborhood squirrels- up until road commission from the township ordered it to be cut down. But only cut it down so far enough that the overhanging branches no longer pose as a safety hazard; we couldn’t let them cut it all down. It’s our family’s tree... I see the pine trees scattered around and on the side of the hill, the dated tree which holds the perfectly angled branch for the old swing that’s long been broken away, and the broad yard where an elder man took his great grandson on countless rides on his old craftsman tractor. Up the short driveway full of a grey monotone mixture of pebbles rocks and stones of all shapes and sizes, where two out of the four children that once lived there got down in the grease and learned about repairing their own vehicles, not realizing the importance of these little moments until they now just become memories stored away in the nooks of their mind’s. Up the cracked concrete pathway which is now patched and surrounded by wildflowers inspired by great gram’s love for the gardens, and exorcised by my mother’s devotion for a recreation of what once gloriously covered the property. Up two small, now wasting away steps to an exhausted creaky once white screen door engraved with old-fashioned designs and a black bird with spread wings placed over the top.

Flattened with little particles of years and years of dirt, I step upon the multicolored carpet that has for years and years been crawled all over by generations of the family’s toddlers- the carpet that is now rolled up and sitting in the back of the shed and replaced with peel and stick home depot floor tiles. It’s rotting back there, its dirty and tattered. But it can't be thrown away, it belongs to this house and it belongs to it’s memories... I see the grand kids, the cousins, brothers and sisters be called from outside for lunch and strive to be the first one in the doorway in hopes that they’ll get the dated wooden bar-stool that spins instead of the one that’s bolted in place. I watch the ever-returning woodpecker eat his lunch out of the big oak and spy on the chipmunks that scatter as you approach the huge front glass window, one of the house's most defining features -the most inviting place I've ever been.

The first step in the door greets me with the most distinguishing smells of chewing tobacco and old spice, aged Vernors and old maplewood. The elbow grease permanently ground into each nail and board- as most of the building was put together brick by brick by just some of the hard working relatives in the family: my great grandparent’s house…my house. Where kids and their kids were raised, somewhere I permanently call home, and a place where anyone can call home and everyone once has. Today, the place where the smell still fights its way through the new paint, wallpaper and floor. Upon a bookshelf built into the wall I will find a box containing the sweet ashes of a beloved woman who once took care of this old house, where a young girl once cried her eyes out in plead that her haunting could end the fighting and tensions that have destroyed the once simple and caring feelings that used to playfully flow through the air.

If I quiet myself I hear the old couple’s voices and if I stand still enough I can feel them there. Opening my senses, I can easily smell them and taste the flavors of the dozens of classic dessert recipes Annette created and Il get one overwhelming whiff of Dolphis’s shaving cream and imagine his spotted wrinkly scruffy cheeks and that one hair he always missed. I allow my mind to dig and when I look out a small side window and I see the old dog running around the back pen, I accept a flashback and see a rundown RV camped out in the yard but when I look outside now I’lll see the new swing put up where I push my little sister singing ‘one for the money and two for the show’… and I’ll look in the other direction- I see my newly spray painted paddle boat out by the woodshed strapped down with bungee cords and covered in a tattered camouflage tarp. As I turn back and look inside, I’m encountered with a vintage cabinet case full of butterfly wings and pictures and special odds and ends and my mind suddenly starts to wander. It creates a picture of a rugged old house; me no longer living in it. I see it accompanied by my parents hand and hand and I see that even more things have been remodeled and changed throughout the house but there’s one secret we all know: perhaps one day all of the house’s features may be torn away and replaced and changed, maybe all the items in it will be gone, and regardless of where the items go the memories will stay on the land. They’ll stay looming in the breeze with my great grams and gramps.. my thoughts are then abruptly interrupted and captured by the attention seeking picture of two scruffy little boys and their father. Shabby overalls with dirty hands and a half built house being made of an old truck stop between two lakes in the woods, and as I analyze their rundown expressions, as if witnessing how worn down and hoary they look: growing up learning the genuine meaning of a hard day’s work- a shaky gentle hand lads on my shoulder and then a sweet old woman’s voice whispers “You should have seem em’ in color.”



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