Today when I went out to the homestead, I spent most of the time cleaning. I removed the lace tablecloth that my grandmother always kept out, folded it, smoothed its edges, and put it into a box. I sorted some of the books, removed some titles for friends and family, and then pulled out ones that might be better served in other homes. I worked on the rafters, doing what seems to be my daily de-cobwebbing whenever I go down there (the spiders seem to be increasing their efforts).
And as I did, I realized that the general sense of reluctance that I have been feeling comes from the sensation that I am erasing my grandparents.
It isn’t true exactly, but in another sense I suppose that it is.
The homestead is not intended to be a shrine, and it has changed and will continue to change. It must change. Homes reflect those who live within them. And so much has already been removed from the homestead that it does not feel the same. It’s half the same and half empty. An oddly disturbing combination that makes one feel as if it’s possible to keep what was.
But that is an illusion.
More than that, I know that my grandparents would be pleased with what is happening in that the homestead has remained in the family. I’m taking on a lot of their projects to finish up, and that is both exciting and sobering.
The homestead will include many more colors. I want it to reflect both James’s and my heritages in a variety of ways. I want to keep the rafters clear and empty rather than adorning them with sculptures (my cats are quite likely to play hard and fast up there, plus I love natural wood). The house has two entry ways so to speak (which is fantastic when one has pets). And once you step inside to the coat closet and the spiral staircase that leads to the attic, I want to create two pieces of parchment with calligraphic greetings in each of the languages that make up our family lines, one on each side of the door.
Additionally the homestead will be transitioning more into a fantasy style throughout, featuring some of the sculptures, drawings, and models that both my husband and I have made or collected. The doors will be painted (brilliant crimson for the studio, forest green for the front door, blue violet for the back door, canary yellow for the root cellar/tornado shelter, peacock blue and Mercer orange for the two side doors.
We will be painting the cabinets in the kitchen and restoring some of the counters. The bathroom with the tiger lily orange sinks is going to get a huge makeover, though thankfully an inexpensive one.
And as silly as it might seem and as excited as I am about how colorful and bright it will be, it still feels as if with each stroke of the brush and each box brought inside that I am removing them.
And maybe that is exactly what it is and just what has to happen.
Several of my grandfather’s sculptures will remain, and the TV room where my grandmother sewed and completed her tasks will continue to be used for crafts though the TV will be departing (I am planning to convert the entertainment center into a combination project and craft storage center with the center portion where the TV sits being turned into a comfy cat bed for Sophie). The bird feeders and bird houses will remain with more restorations rather than transformations. And when March comes around, I hope to put together geese nests and haul them out into the pond like my grandfather used to do. If all goes well, we’ll be ready to transition into beekeeping and establish a couple apiaries though it has been years since those were at the homestead. The salt lick for the deer and other creatures who enjoy a salty treat is an easy item to put out that both my grandparents loved.
All in all, there is an odd sensation of celebration and mourning at the same time. Remembering the legacy that my grandparents left and the lives they created, so intertwined and so distinct in their impacts. And using the foundation of the home that they made to continue the next generation.
It is bittersweet. And sometimes if I stop for too long, it can mire me into indecision and contemplation. But so long as I keep going, I realize that the sadness mixed with the joy is how it is supposed to be. And ultimately it is a tremendous blessing. It hurts because it was good (and in memory remains good). It is exciting because there is so many opportunities to serve and care for a place that I love dearly and the land which surrounds it.
I know that if I had grandchildren (and that is a big if since I am not sure I will ever be able to have children though I dearly hope that it works out), I would want them to feel free to make their own mark and create their own legacy.
If I could have my druthers (and perhaps I shall), I will make scholarships that honor and represent each of my ancestors as far back as I can go and can find some way to represent their interests. And I sometimes think about that as I am cleaning and organizing. That in the end we are all stories with overlapping characters who continue on in the footsteps that we leave. I want to preserve that legacy without making it a millstone, honor and support without being enslaved, even while recognizing the good and the bad (this more in reference to some of the folks in my family tree who made some more than questionable choices). And I think that not only is that possible but that there is a gentle and soothing peace in it as well.