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Old and Abandoned: On Homes Forgotten

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.

Mute testimonies

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?

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.

11 replies on “Old and Abandoned: On Homes Forgotten”

Possibly, Cynthia. But those are more normally found in the old town centers. They are generally owned by the towns, and usually need a lot of fixing up. Plus they’re in areas where there is little to no work. But the towns themselves are often quaint, picturesque, and peaceful!

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Signora Sheila, this is a beautiful piece. I have always loved the look of old homes. The character, the charm, even the flaws. Somehow they seem more real than the newer homes. So many have lived much like Aunty Esther. A life of sacrifice to provide for their families. Most of all, may the sacrificial love of Christ permeate the walls of our hearts so that our heavenly home warms the people around us. God bless you!

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This genuinely brought tears to my eyes as I read of Aunty Esther’s sacrifice and Uncle Eduardo’s longsuffering. For a home that was more than a home; a keeper of stories and a picture of the grand people that lived there, all made in the image of God, all valuable, all worthwhile. Abandoned homes still hold memories, you’re right–but describing them as mute testimonies makes them even more heartfelt and beautiful–if people would only stop and listen. I love how you describe your home–full of love and laughter. Isn’t that the hope? It’s what I hope ours says out loud.

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It did the same to me, Dayle. They were special people, and their deaths brought much sadness to our neighborhood. Their generation is slowy passing away. I love the way you describe a home – as a keeper of stories. You have such a gift with words! But you’re right – that’s exactly what they are. Though I never really thought about until I started noticing all the abandoned homes around the countryside (causualites) of increasing industrialization). It’s funny how many things we never really notice! But how much we can learn from them!

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You are so right, my friend. We so easily abandon what we don’t see as useful or necessary without considering what it is we’re really giving up. Homes are heart reflectors–and when we see them we see more than just a structure. The memories flood out the doors and windows with beauty and color. Thanks for sharing what you did. It’s good to think about these things.

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Thanks, Dayle! As always a huge encouragement! I think you’re right, our values often get skewered because in the rush of life we sometimes forget to stop, reflect, and consider them. So here’s to more relection!

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