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farmhouse porch barnIt was time to let the house go.

George had been contemplating the idea for a few years, and when the latest tax bill rolled in and his insurance went up again, he decided it was time to pack it in. The farm had been in his family for generations, and he hated to let it go — but at his age, tending to those fields was beyond what he could manage. And besides that, the neighbors had been wanting to make good use of that farmland for decades. Now their son Nolan was of age, a sturdy man with an impressive work ethic, one who had a degree in agriculture.

At least it would be in good hands.

The sale sign had gone up and George had hired someone to clean the place, and then the offers came rolling in. But it was the offer from the neighbors — specifically, from Nolan — that George had waited for.

And when he got it, he didn’t even dicker. He just said okay. Seeing the farm in the right hands mattered more than getting a few extra thousand out of the deal.

And today…well, later he would go to the attorney’s office and sign the papers.

But right now, it was just George and that big house.

Where memories live

He started at the front door, where the hardwood floors were worn to a soft, silver shine. Just beyond the entryway the house opened up into a large living room. There was the picture window, where they could see those who came up the drive to greet them, where the Christmas tree had stood every year, where the sunlight came through and turned the walls from pale yellow to rich gold.

He listened to the floorboards creak as he went into the kitchen. Here the old linoleum countertop was faded and the porcelain sink was chipped. The cabinets were old and should have been torn out years ago — he assumed the new owners would take care of that. He opened one of them, the one where his mother always tried to hide cookies on the high shelf, just to hear the sound again.

He backtracked to the bedrooms, four of them, two on each side of a long hallway. At the end of the hallway was the bathroom. When he stepped in he caught the faintest scent of oatmeal, which was decidedly odd. Maybe it was just his memory, as he stood and looked at the deep tub and thought about how many times he had soaked in an oatmeal bath after yet another run-in with the poison ivy that grew along the fencerows.

His bedroom was the small one; he had been the youngest of two boys and one girl. Dust motes floated on the beams of sunlight that poured through that big window, and he remembered climbing out of it when he was a boy, to go play in the fields — and later, climbing out of it as a teenager who just had to see Janice, the love of his life, even if it meant sneaking out at midnight to be with her.

He smiled. Janice sure loved this old place.

A new life for an old farmhouse

It was a simple house, one that served their family well while they did the hard work of running the farm. He walked slowly through each room, letting the memories flow around him, and finally he went back to the front door. The key was warm in his hand as he stepped out of the house, looked back in one more time, and then closed the door behind him. He leaned on the old cast iron railing as he turned the key in the lock, pausing to listen to that satisfying sound of safety and home.

He had thought there would be tears, but no. Instead, there was an excitement, the promise of new life for that old house.

It had been a good place, he thought as he made his way down the cracked sidewalk to the truck in the driveway.

He turned one last time and looked back. And there, he could see the ghosts of what would come. Nolan had a son, a boy that was three now, or was he four? George thought about that tow-headed youngster, could almost see him swinging from the big maple tree in front, bounding across the yard, his shoes leaving mud on the hardwood floors as he ran to the kitchen to pull up a stool and reach onto the high shelf to grab the cookies his mother thought she had hidden.

Yes, George thought as he climbed into his truck. This place would be in good hands, indeed.

 

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.