Sunday, May 25, 2008
This barn has been a part of my life since they brought me home from the hospital as an infant in the 1960's, and it's been in our family since the 1950's.
Ever since I can remember, this barn has been in my life. My parents originally lived in a trailer on the other side which faces the water. (Say what you want about living in a trailer, go ahead, you know you want to, but I’m here to tell ya this trailer was on some incredible real estate. To this day if you were to ask me what my dream house would be, it’d be a waterfront trailer. With a maid. And a landscaper. And a chef. Is that asking too much?)
My father’s parents lived in the farmhouse that went along with this barn, and eventually my parents ended up building a house right next door. The point being (don’t worry if you don’t know what the point is) I have strong ties to the barn.
Given the isolation of Mathews, as children we had to invent our own fun, and many times we ended up playing here. It was and still is a wonderland inside, filled with all kinds of junk and plenty of stuff for a kid to get into. For example, if you read the story about me painting the shutters pink, it happened right here on the other side of the silo. Some other noteworthy nuggets:
-One time when we were bored, which could have been any minute of any day of any year as a child growing up, my neighbors and I decided to turn the barn into a haunted house. We worked for weeks creating a spooky landscape complete with a grave yard, a place where you could feel eyeballs (Isn’t that what everyone wants to do? Sit around and pass eyeballs from person to person? They were peeled grapes, by the way, and I thought we were quite clever.), and other ridiculous activities in the hopes of scaring our poor visitors to death. We were nothing, if not compassionate, merciful hosts. After all that work, I don’t remember more than one group going through it.
And as a most unusual side note, about a year ago in a local thrift store, I saw the sign my mother painted for this very haunted house. I remember someone stole it (and I was very upset, because it was a great sign, my mother is very artistic) but who’d have thought it would end up years later in a thrift store? I didn’t buy it, by the way. I cannot explain why, but I’m sure a therapist would say it has something to do with being reminded of a failure….I, on the other hand, would simply say that I have enough junk as it is, and absolutely no need for a sign about a haunted house.
-There was every sort of Anything Old a child could ever hope to play with in there. Tons of tools, old records, old skeletons and animal specimens. That’s what’s in every barn, isn’t it? Animal specimens and skeletons? My uncle was a marine biologist and left some of his stuff there…talk about a haunted house. Try being a kid snooping around in a dark barn and finding a jar of SQUID looking you straight in the eyes. There were many record-breaking sprints and screams that originated in that barn.
-This was the headquarters for my grandfather’s daffodil business. After the flowers were picked we hauled them here to soak in buckets of water before packing them off in huge cardboard boxes to be shipped to parts unknown. I hated this part of the operation and usually made myself scarce when it was time to do the packing. I've always been helpful like that.
-This was and still is a cat factory. Put one cat in, and four hundred pop out. It’s amazing. And these cats NEVER LEAVE.
But perhaps my favorite story from this barn is one I can’t even remember because I was so young, about 3 or 4 years old. My grandfather, a very staunch, serious “rules are rules” type of person, was in charge of me. I wanted to go in the barn, and he obliged.
A set of stairs more closely resembling a ladder goes up to the second-level loft. I decided that’s where I wanted to go. My grandfather must not have been paying close attention, because that ladder is steep. I evidently lost my footing, slipped and said, “Oh by dammit.” Not the other G.D.-it (with apologies for the cussing). Nope, it was, “Oh BY dammit.”
And there, with nobody but her staunch, serious grandfather as a witness, little Chesapeake Bay Child made her first attempt at profanity. (There were many more to follow, but never again on the home front. Well, at least not until I could outrun the adults.)
Needless to say, my grandfather was not pleased, but I guess by the time he finished telling my parents and half the county about the offense, most everyone was laughing too hard to care.
Ah, the barn. Playground, cat factory, haunted house and profanity practice field for up and coming children.
Yes, this barn holds a whole lot of memories. And a whole lot of cats.