Wednesday, August 12th, 2020

P Publisher’s Point by Jean Loxley-Barnard
The Homestead


I've just walked around my yard. Its 7 acres of grounds and woods has given me comfort for 24 years. I looked at the corner where the 2 labs and one cat are buried and noted how the spot is no longer distinguishable from any other, except by memory. I pulled down some hanging branches on the birch trees that remind me of my New England heritage and wondered at the size of the dogwood planted in honor of my granddaughter Heather's birth. How could it have grown so tall . . . how could she?

There are 2 indents in the woods out back, one where a friend parked a very large trailer for a few years. The branches of nearby trees are subtly trying to hide the spots. How long will it be until the indents are all gone?

Gone already is the fence out front where a colt named Jubilee (for the celebration occuring in the City when he was born) nuzzled next to his mother and took awkward steps into the world. Gone is the chicken house and rabbit cages where children tended their charges. Gone is the rose garden where I'd sit on the old church pew on a cool evening, sharing the dew with the roses.

What is not gone are the memories that occupy every inch of the home and yard and they alternately cheer and sadden me. During the times when I contemplate selling the homestead and 'downsizing' I become very nostalgic and wonder if, and how, I'll ever do it. I kept the grounds up myself for a brief period when I was alone in the home, and it was quite frightening at first. I'd not be able to do it now without help and haven't had to for some years. In those passing years, not only the home got older.

Do I keep it mainly for me or partly for the children? Once when I had decided to sell, Heather had her 10th birthday party and I took pictures of kids petting the horses, playing games in the yard, and running. It was the pictures of the legs running that I snapped frames of through the bushes that did it that time. I held up the pictures and told myself out loud, 'This is why I'm not selling the house!' But is it as important to her as it is to me? Is it important to her mother, my daughter Natalie?

I remember Natalie bringing a friend over and my noticing them missing from the party. When I went to find them, they were touring the purple room! Everyone who knows me well knows about the purple room where I store 'stuff.' I was horrified. 'Don't worry, Mom,' she said so casually, 'We've seen messes before.' I was anything but reassured. Then I realized what was happening. Natalie was showing her friend her house, her homestead, even though she hadn't lived in it for well over a decade.

I no longer worried that my secret room was exposed. What was really important was that this grown daughter has a homestead where she can bring her friends. How very rare these days are homesteads.


What is not gone are the memories that occupy every inch of the home and yard and they alternately cheer and sadden me.

When my sister Ann and I visit my mother in New England, periodically we drive around the area and photograph the homes of our ancestors. My father grew up in a white saltbox that is really quite large, a good thing for a home that housed parents and the 11of 14 children who survived. I was never inside that home, sold by the time I was a baby, nor have I ever seen a picture of its interior. Still, there is a strange comfort from knowing where my Dad grew up and being able to drive by his childhood home and take a picture.

My mother grew up on America Street - I love the address - in a little 2 story home. It had a kitchen that barely accommodated the table when leaves were added. To get from one side to the other, one simply walked through the tiny living room and even tinier dining room around to the other side of the kitchen table.

No one thought much of it. Everyone had a great time at Grammy's house, called Grammy's even when Gramp was alive. She was the sunshine in that home, Gramp was the rather stern one who liked to watch cowboy movies and didn't want any of his 21 grandchildren or his 6 living children stepping in his view.

Upstairs were 3 tiny, and I mean tiny, bedrooms where 7 children grew up. To this day, my mother's brothers and sister are very private people who give each other great respect. Size doesn't matter, having a homestead does.

Both Ann and I remember Grammy's house and the good memories it brings to mind. And there are two other homes we lived in that we drive by regularly. Each is a small ranch in a respectable middle class neighborhood, greatly enlarged by the breezeway and garage that Dad put on each with Gramp's help. They are quite a contrast to our homes now and we look at them from another world today.

Now, each Thanksgiving my sister's home is the homestead where my family gathers. When her kids were little, they all came to my home. Over the years, family situations change and traveling follows common sense. My brother-in-law has become the patriach of his extended family, so there is sometimes quite a gathering there.

Just yesterday Heather was bemoaning how little stability there is in too many lives. Quickly, she reached over and patted my arm. 'You're stable, Gramma, you're stable,' she said. Maybe it's the homestead.

Jean Loxley-Barnard has been a writer all her life and studied both sociology and psychology at George Washington University where she earned a B.A. Her company, The Shopper, Inc., encompasses all the Loxley-Barnard family publications - The Shopper Magazines and Doctor to Doctor Magazine. She has been in the advertising, consulting and publishing business for 39 years.