Has your family passed down a home or farm through the generations? Or do you wish they had?
This summer I was able to visit the homestead of my 2x's great grandfather in northern Michigan. It's been in our family for five generations. While my direct family line hasn't lived on the farm in the last two generations, I'm glad that it's still in the family. Yet, I'm sure that passing on the family farm, or the family home, isn't the easiest task when there are scores of cousins and multi-generations.
Gregory Farm on Maple River, Michigan
Somehow, traversing those complexities of passing on homes, is more about legacy, nostalgia, and many memories that hold special meaning. Jaime's parents sold their family farm last year and I recall the heart-wrenching that went into letting it go.
There's something in all of us that likes to hang on to things or institutions that represent celebrating the best of times and surviving the worst of things together. We don't want the importance of what we've learned along the way to be forgotten.
Don't you just wonder sometimes if old houses could talk, what story would they tell?
I was raised in a remodeled one room school house where my parents still live. I wonder what conversations occurred there since 1888.
Old Brown Schoolhouse, built 1888
We found that my grandfather's family barn is still standing when we visited Michigan this summer. I wonder what conversations he had with his father before the farmhouse burned while they were at church, and before the flu epidemic of 1919 took my great grandfather. What conversation did my grandfather have with his mother when she decided to take the younger children and move back to Pennsylvania, yet he chose to stay in Michigan? Is that when they sold the family farm to a stranger who didn't know their stories?
Grandpa Newswanger's Fram
While doing the story research I talked about on last week's blog: Research Road Trip: Up North I came across references to similar attachments to family summer cottages of Bay View Association. There was a common thread that ran between our family farm and those family cottages. Many of these cottages have been in their families for four generations or more. Face it, by the time a home is in a family that many generations--there are tons of cousins, and more to come.
It can become a challenge to maintain the stories and the meaning of a place after so long. Who keeps the stories alive?
Bay View, Michigan cottages
Once in a while, I just want to know--if this house could talk--what stories would it tell?
Would it tell of a child's skinned knee? A toddler's illness? A grieved widow's heartache? The whispered prayers of the lonely? The laughter of celebration and love? The faith that reached across the woodgrain of the family table? The warmth of belonging?
Even Anne Shirley's Green Gables still lives in all our hearts, right?!
Anne of Green Gables
Sure, we know that old things pass away to make way for new things, and we can't hang on forever.
What then shall we hang onto?
We all know intuitively, it's not the place, the institutions, or the things that actually hold the meaning for us.
It's the souls. The faith. Their love. The overcoming of trials and hardship. The community.
It's the sacredness of the places where grace touched us.
Where mercy prevailed. Where God's Spirit came down.
Where heaven touched earth.
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