My grandmother and my father moved to the Woodinville house in the 60s, I think. A log cabin the woods, old windows, just barely enough room for two. If I recall correctly, there was no indoor bathroom, but I might be romanticizing a bit. Two and a half acres and blackberry & salmonberry vines snaking everywhere, a huckleberry bush pushing its way out of a six foot wide cedar stump, creeks with spawning salmon and broken down barns and enough piles of rusted farm tools and other junk to get lost in. A sign salvaged from somewhere by my grandmother read "Hogranch" in bold lettering carved into old wood.
In the summers, when the rain stopped for more than a few weeks at a time, the little creek in the backyard dried up, and we knew our well was going dry. Short showers, water off when shampooing or using soap, no watering the gardens. In the tougher winters the pipes would freeze and more than once my sisters and I sat in the pump shed with heaters and blowdryers, singing Christmas carols and thawing the frozen well pump.
I haven't been to the old Woodinville house in years now, though I did drive by several months ago to show Patrick my childhood home. The last time I was inside it felt cold and changed, the clutter of my grandmother's days back again after so many years. Too many cats & too few people to clean up after them, and if you don't keep up with dishes in such a small space they take over the sink and the counters and the stove before a day's worth of meals is up.
I could liken the deterioration of my childhood home to the way our nuclear family itself has gone, create parallels between dilapidated roofs & rotting shingles flaking and my siblings' relationships with our mother and father. When we all lived at home, the lawn was mowed, the dishes washed, the cats taken care of, the front porch swept.
My mother is in the process of cleaning the old house up for sale. New cabinets, new appliances, a good cleaning. My sister showed me a picture of the outside, and the rubbish was cleared away, and the porch cleaned off. The old wooden siding was painted a light blue, and it looked odd sitting there amongst trees and rhododendrons and blackberry vines--a fake, unnatural blue set against the woods we all played in as children.
I've often wondered at the sadness of grown-ups losing their childhood homes--college students whose parents packed up and sold the houses they grew up in, middle-aged people putting their parents' houses up for sale after death. I suppose I thought the Woodinville house would be there--2 1/2 acres to run around in for the rest of my life. Two and a half acres where I watched my sister's oldest child pick buttercups, where trees would still loose their puffs of cotton every spring. Two and a half acres where I would show my children how to pick the roots that taste like licorice and probably weren't but as a child I ate them anyway, two and a half acres and a sky for watching bats on summer nights.