The house at the end of our street was torn down. We heard a few different versions of how the lovely, mid-nineteenth century farmhouse had been abandoned or maybe the folks had moved away because of work or perhaps the wife had gotten sick or, well, it didn’t really matter. Gradually, the house fell into disrepair.
A silly woman called it haunted which was disrespectful of a house that was simply full of memories and sounds (laughter; tears; muddy boots stomped on the porch; mice scurrying in the walls) and smells (strong coffee; wet wool, roast turkey; lilacs) and seasons upon seasons of children and pets and young couples and widows and widowers.
Even after people and animals stopped living there, our neighbor and friend continued to hay the fields every summer. He plowed the driveway in the winters until the shed, that doubled as the garage, slowly gave in to the snow load on its punctuated roof.
Word went round town that the house would finally be sold. We heard it was part of an estate and we felt a sadness at the distant loss. Our friend and neighbor made an offer, then another. But a fellow from out of town swept in, made his case and met the price. Before the truth of it all could even circulate, the man had a crew in who wrapped the place up in yellow caution tape; harvested the gold in the form of mouldings and chestnut beams; stripped it bare he did.
Then the chug of a tractor in the field was replaced with the sound of more fearsome equipment, as the big machines pushed and pulled; strained, shattered and finally felled the once fine old home. The sound was terrible; rending in its truest form; a kind of keening that wrenched your heart. Bricks crumbled; joists snapped; horsehair plaster and lath rained down and the dust rose up in clouds. Smoke from the funeral pyre and all the sounds and smells and memories from a century and a half of living went with it.
The corner is empty now. They filled the cellar hole and smoothed it over in a sort of slap-dash way so you can still see the ruts the big treaded tires made. Spring came early after a worrisomely warm and dry winter. A plucky little forsythia burst open in a yellow cascade at the foot of what was once the front walk. I’m hoping the lilac near where the old shed stood does the same in a few weeks; flowers at the grave of an old friend.