August 4, 2008



I found out yesterday that the house I grew up in burned to the ground.

It was a beautifully constructed old farmhouse. The woodwork was beautiful throughout the entire house, with built-in cabinetry throughout the house - stuff that you just don't see made any more. Some of the walls had been painted years and years ago and were practically frescos. When I was born, there still wasn't running water in the house (according to my baby book) and the entire time we lived there, there was no electricity in the upstairs bathroom. It had a beautiful cast iron clawfoot tub and I grew up taking baths in candlelight. We had a woodburning furnace in the house and as kids we would help dad chop wood and toss it into the basement through one of the windows.

My family still owns the property, although no one has lived in the house for eight years. We decided to build a new house and as we moved on with our lives, that house remained as a part of our past. There were no plans to sell the house and so we gradually moved out stuff into our new house - and what we didn't move, was just left.

We moved right after my senior year of high school, and the new house didn't quite feel like home yet, so as I prepared to go to college, many of the things that I just didn't have room to take with me, things from my childhood remained. Books that I had read as a child and then a teenager, scraps of memorobelia, clothes that I had grown out of, but didn't take the time to sort through and donate.

A few years ago, as I moved into my first apartment in divinity school I went back and got a table and chairs and an old writing desk to take with me. I keep trying to remember if there were other things in the house that were left behind and are now gone.

I always have had so many dreams for that house. While it was beautiful and had so much history, it was a sort of embarassment to me growing up... it always was in the need of repair and more love than we had the time or energy to give it... but I had dreams of someday restoring that house to its original beauty and either living there or turning it into a bed and breakfast or something. It would probably cost a half a million dollars to do so... but still, it was a dream.

I had so many plans this summer, now that we are back in the state, to head over there and sort through things. Throw out what we never intended to keep, find those treasures all over again and give things away. I even had a dream right after we had the tornados north of us that this same house had been completely wiped out by a tornado - and I woke up with the same regret and emptiness that I have today. I think I might have done something about that feeling, but with all of the flooding that hit a week later, there just wasn't time. I needed to be in other places, with other people.

All of that is now gone. My husband and I stopped by to see what remains. The charred ruins smouldered still. All that was recognizeable was the stone foundation and the porch that was right below my window. I sometimes used to sit on the roof of the porch - careful to avoid the weak spots. But not anymore.


  1. what a loss... that must be really hard for you to come to terms with, I know it would be hard for me. We have the same kind of situation with my grandfathers house. He hadn't lived in the house for a few years when he passed away (5 years ago) The house is still standing, though creatures have moved into the second floor I think, and there has been much vandalism to that poor little house on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere... My mother suffers all sorts of guilt when she thinks of the things that might have just been left there... I'll pray for you and your family.

  2. I'm so sorry for your loss. My childhood home is gone too, but it was a planned burn...much easier to grieve without the feeling of violation that must come from losing not only the house, but the treasures to arson.

  3. Oh, Katie! This is heartbreaking and terrible. I'm so sorry for this loss.

  4. what a melancholy kind of loss... so sorry.

    Your description really made me want to see the place. Beautiful writing.