As we travel about the countryside, old abandoned houses like this are a sight we often see. And they never fail to fill my heart with sadness. A sort of longing for what must have been. I picture cozy families gathered around the hearth, children playing in the garden. And entire families gathering produce from once-flourishing fields and vineyards.
But now they stand, dilapidated mute testimonies of what once was. Peering down, from their lonely vacant windows, on lonely hillsides or sleepy towns. As their paint, like tears coursing down weathered cheeks, slowly peels away.
Just up our street stands another old and abandoned, though much smaller, house.
The tiny place where our neighbor was born and raised with her parents and 7 siblings. She could have taught the Tiny House Movement a thing or two! But that’s another story, for another time.
We loved this neighbor, whom we called Aunty Esther. So much love to give and wisdom to share. And we could listen to her stories for hours on end, one in particular.
If walls could talk
It’s the story which the walls of her family homes would tell, could they talk.
As she aged, I sometimes wondered what she thought when looking back on their many years of hard work. On their life of sacrifice and hard times. They married in the post-war years of the early 1950s. Hard years for much of the world. But then, in the agricultural south things had always been hard. Subsistence farming doesn’t make for an easy life.
But the two great wars left a mass of destruction, poverty, and hunger in their wake.
And Auny Esther had lived it all. Her husband, Uncle Eduardo, trudged 28 miles (45 km) one-way to toil in fields under the hot sun. Until finally, an opening came in foreign coal mines. Dangerous dirty work, that no one in their right mind wanted to do. But the pay was better, and with six hungry children to feed and clothe, they couldn’t afford to pick and choose.
And Aunty Esther was left alone to make the daily trek to work the tobacco fields closer to home. And care for six children on her own.
“We only bought this place about 20 years ago,” she told us. “And it took a lot of sacrifice.” A lot of sacrifice hard work, sweat, and tears.
And that’s what I think when I see the old and abandoned houses.
The tales they would tell.
Homes are expensive. We build them or fix them up with care. All that care and all that sacrifice. Their owners so happy to have a home of their own. A place to grow old in. A place to rest weary bones.
How sad it seems when they end up lonely and abandoned. Just standing there, old and derelict. Yet all the same with a story to tell — if they only had lips that could speak.
And your house?
What story would your house tell, long after you’re gone?
If your walls could talk, what story would they tell about you?Tweet
Ours would tell the joy of a middle-aged couple who thought they’d never have a place of their own. The delight of fixing up each room. Long afternoons on the patio. Sleepless nights of sickness. And sorrow mixed with joy.
But I hope it would mostly be a story ringing with love and laughter. The peace of God’s love. And the joy of lives well-lived between its walls. And though our tale hasn’t always been so positive, with every breath I breathe, I will endeavor to live my future days in such a way that that is the tale my walls would recount.
Because really, if walls could talk, they would only resound the story of the lives lived in them.
It takes hands to build a house, but only hearts can build a home.Author Unknown
Images are my own.