December 26, 2011 by Tiffany A. Robbins
Some things never change. The rolling hills lie just as they did all those years ago. I gun my car engine as I race up a hill so that I can once again feel my stomach drop as it did when Gary the bus driver would top the hills too quickly and send us free of the power of gravity if only for a moment.
As I pull up to the property, I can see the line of pine trees that serve as a windbreak are still at the end of the lawn, but they’ve grown so large, I can’t even see the trailer sitting in the middle of the former soy bean field any longer.
I pull onto the winding quarter-mile driveway and crane my neck around to catch my first glimpse of my childhood home.
Some things never change…and some things do.
The barren yard is being reclaimed by the tall Midwestern prairie grasses. A few pieces of siding are flapping in the wind. The raccoons have pulled the skirting from the edge of the trailer and the wind ripples across the bottom panels with each gust. The stairs have been pushed away from the foundation and they now sit at a precarious angle. One time we had come home and one of Bud’s escaped baby cows was sitting under that very stair.
I get out of my car and a shiver chills me as the strong wind pulls at my jacket and pants the same way as it does the loose shingles of the roof. I can still remember the sounds of the roofers nailing those shingles down the summer that Bud replaced the roof and siding on the place for us. He had sounded so sorry when he informed my mom that he would have to raise our rent from $100 to $150 to help cover the cost of the repairs. He’d always had such a soft place in his heart for our poor little broken family. Mom was so thrilled with the repairs. She had told Bud comfortingly, “How often does a single mom ever get to live in such a nice place.” After that, she paid him $175 in rent just to show her gratitude.
The 30-year-old trailer had seemed practically new when he was finished with it. Now as I look at the mold growing at the base of the once snow-white siding, I wonder why I’m ruining my last perception of this place. From what Mom has told me, I knew things would be different. Why did I want to see it?
Is my sister’s pine tree still there? I can remember when she got it from the fast food joint on Arbor Day with her kid’s meal. Mom had said the stick was dead already, but we put it in the ground anyway. When it was small, we used to pretend we were horses and we’d hurdle the small, stick of a tree to show our jumping prowess.
I wade through the waist-high grasses and wander around the house. I have to know. I have to see it myself.
There it still stands, almost peaking above the height of the trailer now. The top of it had gotten knocked off in an ice storm; so, its diameter has trumped its height. Its bottom branches are so long it almost hides the tractor behind it.
Mom told me it was bad, but I didn’t want to believe it. My eyes go to the pink notice on the door, which reads “Condemned” in large letters.
Bud has died and there was no one left to repair the house when the pipes had burst during a winter storm. His kids just wanted to be done with the responsibility. Thus, the tractor sits and waits for the final paperwork that will end the home in which I grew up. Why did I come?
Some things do change.