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The Old Homeplace
"The Old Homeplace" is a short essay describing an homecoming on the surface, but just beneath showing us all how important finding your ancestral roots are.
Tara A. Lambert
The Old Homeplace
Tara A. Lambert
As a young child, I always heard mystical stories of the house my grandmother was born in. “The Old Homeplace” is what they called it, and over three generations of my family had lived there since slavery times. When my great, great-grandfather was set free, his master was gracious enough to give him three acres of land, as long as he continued to work for him.
I hear supernatural stories of how the home was erected in one day--each brick shaped by hand from the clay of the earth, each plank was split from the trees cleared to make space for the grand house. Over fifty children had been conceived, born, and reared in that house. This house had been said to feed them when there was no food, warm them when there was no wood for fire, and entertain and love them when there was no joy.
It had been over thirty years since anyone had lived in this house the first time I saw it. My grandmother, my mother, and my aunt left when my grandfather passed away. I was so excited to finally go and see the supernatural house of all the family folklore from my youth. As we passed over the Virginia Stateline into Gates County, North Carolina-the air magically changed. It was spring-scented and sun-drenched, making everything feel clean and bright. This feeling carried over onto the people. Country folk waved at the car as if they knew me. I was coming home.
As we drove up the dirt road leading to “The Old Homeplace”, tears welled up in my eyes. The earth was red and soft, and wildflowers grew as if they were planted on purpose. The grass smelled sweet and fertile, almost inviting taste. Bunnies and deer played, peeked and frolicked away as if they were from “Bambi”.
To anyone else, all that was there was a run-down shack--weather-beaten and worn amongst all this beauty. But just like the feisty elder common in most families, you could still see the life in this old house. Ghosts of my family’s past welcomed me back as if they had known me all of my life. It was not eerie as I entered the old house for the first time. The warm-dark enveloped me as I passed through the ancient rooms. The musty-sweet smell of decay was reminiscent of things that felt familiar, even though I had never been there before. As I looked around, all of the stories and people of the past came to life before my eyes. I saw my elderly aunts, uncles, and grandparents playing when they were children. They were living and breathing in front of me-it was almost as if I could touch them. They definitely touched me.
At that moment, it became apparent to me how important family roots were, and how important it was for me to come and find them. I still cling to that day now, my past constantly guiding my present and future endeavors. “The Old Homeplace” constantly whispers to me as I strive to make the spirits of old proud of me. On many spring-scented days, I’m often called home.
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"Heart warming piece. Made me concerned for the lack of knowledge I have for my family's roots." -- E.L. Bennett, Chesapeake, VA, USA.
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© 2001 Tara A. Lambert
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