Sometimes you can go home again

November 06, 2005|by KATE COLEMAN

Several weeks ago, Barbara Nance and Ted Bauer invited me to dinner at their Keedysville farm, a place which was my home for nearly two decades.

I accepted conditionally, telling my hostess that I would come if she was willing to risk that I might get emotional. I am an unabashed crybaby.

Barbara understands. She and Ted also love the farm. They are there now, she said, taking care of it for a little while. "It belongs to all of us."

Since I left 13 years ago, I'd driven several times to the end of the long lane but always turned around and left without stopping.


A lot of my life happened at what we called "Happy Day Farm."

I had arrived there a newlywed in the early 1970s. I brought two newborn children home from the hospital to that wonderful 1854 farmhouse.

I thrilled at the birth of dozens of velvet-nosed baby horses, several puppies and litters of kittens. Although I got tougher over the years, I mourned the passing of countless animals, sad even for the dead groundhogs the dogs delivered to the front yard.

I grieved again when my marriage ended.

But that was then, and the October Sunday afternoon of the dinner was now.

I was welcomed by a gray and white cat who flopped on his back as I stepped beside the generations-old-and-nearly-10-feet-tall boxwood.

I flashed back to a gray-and-white cat, Cupid, from my time there. In a distinctively annoying voice, Cupid often whined for rescue from that same boxwood.

I couldn't get past the front porch without remembering the thump of the rocks our golden retriever Amy frequently dropped on it. Neither could I forget the strong-enough-to-wake-you-out-of-a-sound-sleep stink of a skunk that Fannie, another dog, trapped under that porch one night.

I walked into the house behind another guest - a woman who had grown up on the farm. I had met her once before, years ago when she stopped by. She recalled then how she would wrap in her handkerchief a blossom from the "shrub bush" by the summer kitchen and have the fragrance in her pocket all day.

There were several other guests, longtime friends among them.

Roger Fairbourn, one of them, is the real estate agent who found the Hagerstown house where I've lived since I left the farm. My late father-in-law had introduced Roger's father, Cal, to Washington County. Cal and his wife, Betty, shared wonderful stories at that Sunday gathering.

Ted took me on a tour of the house. He and Barbara hadn't made drastic changes. Their improvements are subtle and wonderful.

The sunroom we had added and the downstairs bathroom are painted a perfect bright yellow. A printed drape hides the washing machine and dryer.

Another flashback: Once when I opened my washer to do laundry, a big black snake rose out of the tub to greet me.

My kids left their marks - in crayon inside a cabinet under some bookcases we had built. I was touched that the marks hadn't been removed.

Upstairs, two bedroom doors open to the second-story porch. Stepping out, I was relieved to see that despite South County development, the view from that porch still is spectacular. Fields are handsomely bordered with dark fencing. The pine grove across the road still is pristine, and a distant South Mountain frames the picture even on a cloudy day.

Barbara had potted tiny boxwood seedlings from the old tree. I took two and now have tangible and living pieces of the farm at my home.

And that emotion I worried about when I accepted the invitation?

I was OK. I was better than OK. I was happy to be there - happy to see a place I loved so much still so loved and cared for.

The Fairbourn family had moved many times; Roger shared a bit of the philosophy he and his siblings grew up with:

"The memories aren't in the house. They're in your heart."

Kate Coleman's column appears in the Lifestyle section on the first Sunday of each month.

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