By Carrie “Mudfoot” Stambaugh
The hulking three-story old house I grew up in will soon exist only in memories.
Late last year, my family learned that the 22-acre farm where I had spent most of my childhood had been sold to developers. Eventually, 66 new homes will occupy the land that was once an old-fashioned refuge in the middle of modern suburbia.
This winter workers started process of tearing down our former home. It’s been stripped of its French windows and doors, and the hardwood that covered the floors and walls. It’s a shell of what it once was.
Ironically, the farm was once home to a prosperous family-owned custom-home building business in the early 1900s. Our house had been built as a workshop and storage barn.
It became a home when two brothers who inherited the property and business decided they wanted to live side-by-side. After one brother’s death, we moved in, in order to maintain it as a working farm. I was three and I remember the day perfectly.
A high school friend of mine dubbed our home “the mansion” not because of its grandeur but because of its sheer size. Three stories tall with a finished walkout basement and full attic, it had a massive open living room, offices with built in bookshelves, an eat-in kitchen, three bathrooms an enclosed porch, four bedrooms, two open porches, and a massive upstairs landing with closets, built-in drawers and a small study.
My family of seven filled it up so it never seemed that big. It was always full of laughter and love. We treated the land as if it were our own too, carefully maintaining and improving it. We raised large gardens and an array of livestock.
Fifteen years ago after the remaining brother’s death, his son evicted us. In a few short weeks were stripped of our agrarian lifestyle and forced into suburbia. The strain of the move contributed to the failure of my parent’s marriage and my world was flipped upside down at the age of 17.
I always knew the farm would one day disappear, that its rolling fields and wild, wooded corners would eventually be consumed by the march of modern development. I just thought it would happen sooner. Instead its just slowly decayed.
For many years it hasn’t been the place I remember. I drive by the entrance to the farm often on the way to my sister’s home. The once immaculate white picket fences that mark both entrances of its long U shaped drive way began to peel and sag years ago.
I often turned my head to fight back tears, remembering vividly the summer my father spent carefully measuring and cutting new boards for the curved entryway fences and the long, hot hours my sisters and I spent painting each board.
It was a happy childhood, one that I often took for granted. The other children at school, who mostly lived in newly built subdivisions, would tease me about being a “poor farm girl.”
I often wished we would move into one of those neighborhoods with perfectly manicured postage stamp yards. I wanted a home with central heat and air-conditioning — not one that relied on window units in the summer and a massive Buck stove for winter heat. As soon as we left there wasn’t much I wouldn’t give to go back. I’ve been racked by guilt for years over my selfish childhood feelings.
Now as the demolition date finally approaches, I finally feel a sense of relief and calm.
That old empty farm has haunted me for years because it was a physical reminder of what I had not appreciated and then lost forever: my childhood family and home.
In the years since I have come to accept that that my family will never be what it was again and neither will the farm. Nothing will change that. It’s time to accept and move on.
Mudfoot’s Meanderings is published monthly in The Greater Ashland Beacon