Armed with the local Friday night newspaper ads, a pocketful of one dollar bills and quarters, a travel mug of my favorite instant coffee and a fistful of the yummiest chocolate iced cake donut, I was ready to negotiate just about anything.
The first few sales on my list of carefully chosen yard sale ads didn't pan out much; I did score big on a rag rug checker set for a dollar that I knew my grand kids would play with someday. Big Guy pointed out that it was missing one of the black game pieces but I informed him that it would all work out since I had another set from a previous outing that was missing a red piece as well.
As we came to the seventh address on my list, I realized that this one would take us out of the city but not too far out.
"Honey," I started with the sweet talk first, "You don't mind if we take a little drive to the country do you?" after all he was in the drivers seat and I could tell he was already tired after watching me sort through twenty or so tables of cute but useless knickknacks and a few hundred boxes of interesting but easily discarded items.
He gave me that look where his teeth clenched but the corner of his mouth curled upward to make his dimple show sweetly. "Puhlease...sweetheart, this will be the last one." I begged as I cuddled up closer and laying my head down on his big strong shoulder, I looked up with pleading eyes.
"Alright..." he caved and then raising an eyebrow warned, "but this will be the last one!" My Big Guy wasn't really a pushover, he just knew if he scratched my back, I would scratch his. In the nearly twenty years we had been married, we had both learned the importance of taking care of each others needs, wants and even frivolous trifles. If he had a bad day at work, I tried to make it better by serving his favorite meal for supper. If he beat me out of bed on a Sunday morning after an exhausting defeat at a pool tournament the night before, I would wake to the smell of a heavenly breakfast being prepared by someone other than me, and no, he didn't pay the kids to make it!
So there we were, having made another concession and on our way to what we wouldn't know until years later, would become a major turning point in our lives.
The road was somewhat familiar even though we rarely traveled out to this part of the city. Yes, we had been here just two years earlier. Wanting desperately to move out of the clamor of city noise, constant glaring street lights and neighbors too close for comfort, we had started looking at homes on the outskirts about three years ago. I wanted acres of land to fill with everything that screamed farm. I hankered for the day I would be riding my horse through my own tall grass pasture with a wide panoramic view of the Flint Hills to take in. An image of rocking the night away in our Cracker Barrel rockers on the veranda while a beautiful country sunset treats us and waking from our bed with a sunrise beaming gloriously through the window; rooster crowing, the smell of bacon on the griddle, all have been a dream of mine since I can remember.
Although I had never had these experience's in my life, something deep inside of me longs for all things country. I grew up in a fairly small, mid-west town where you could still raise rabbits and chickens in your backyard and no one would say anything. My grandparents had a farm but moved into town about the time I was born. They still farmed the land but had decided to live in town for convenience and to prepare for their retirement.
Grandpa would occasionally take me with him on his trips to the farm and I would marvel at the acres of corn stalks or flowing golden wheat that surrounded us for miles. The view of the hills and the thickly treed river valley that snaked its way across a patchwork of fields was inviting me to come explore what creatures might be found living there. There was such a peacefulness there and in the quiet, wide open space of it all, you could hear sounds that no city dweller would ever recognize. The old house that had now stood empty for a few years, was starting to show it's age with white washed paint beginning to peel and a few shutters slightly crooked on their rusted hinges, but I imagined what it had been like when grandma stood on the back kitchen porch and rang the dinner bell for the farm hands she always talked about feeding three meals a day to. I hoped to someday find a house just like that.
But in our search for this wonderful country utopia, we had only come across a few homes with an acre or two which at that time we couldn't afford. One of the homes we had looked at was on this same road. We passed it on our way to the treasures I hoped to find.
Soon the pavement disappeared and we were now traveling down a dusty rock road.
"Is that it? Can you read the number on the mailbox?" I asked as we came closer to a thick grove of trees that usually meant a farm home was being sheltered there. "Slow down, I think I see a sign!"
Closing in on the target of my next hunting area was making me excited to the point that my Big Guy had to say, "Whoa girl, calm your jets! We'll get there."
He just about missed the drive and had to stop, back the truck up a few feet and then navigate a tight turn into a long and somewhat rutted dirt road. A small "Yard Sale" sign, made from the side of a card board box greeted us at the base of a large mailbox and turning my attention to the road ahead, my heart began to pound wildly; it was as if I had just discovered a long lost friend.
Framed by two very mature piss-elm trees and surrounded by a large garden of bright orange ditch-lilys, was what I perceived to be the perfect looking farm house.
It was adorable! White with green trim and the foundation made of flint rock. The original two story, a-frame house had two additions, typical of an 1800's farm home. A green shingled roof and small covered front porch added to the cozy feel and a beautiful climbing ivy covered the entire side of the north wall one story addition. A somewhat rickety barn-like garage stood before us as we continued up the drive. A young man greeted us and introduced us to his wife who was seated in a folding lawn chair near the garage.
After sorting through a few odds and ends that were obvious left-overs for us late yard sale comers, I couldn't help notice the real estate "For Sale" sign that leaned precariously up against the garage door frame.
"Did you recently buy this home?" I asked the young woman who used her hands to shade her eyes from what little sun was allowed to shine through the cover of the piss-elms.
Before she could answer, her husband sprang into action, giving every detail about the home and how they had listed it through a realtor but then decided to sell it themselves. He was obviously excited to have the opportunity to show it to us because before I even had the chance to ask, he offered us the tour.
Being that I loved gardening and was especially fond of lilys, I was thrilled that there were so many surrounding the front of the home. Looking back towards the side of the garage I witnessed a whole bunch of naked ladies welcoming us with a curtsy; being helped by a slight country breeze. For those of you who don't know what "naked ladies" are, don't be alarmed, they are a type of flower.
As we entered the front door, we were met by the ghost of farm homes past and my heart fluttered as I revelled in the old wooden trim work, thick and tall baseboards and real wood floors. In the kitchen the white wooden cabinets were plain but ivy had been painted on the doors and trim to add character. Ivy printed wallpaper border adorned the tops of the kitchen walls and the walls were painted a lovely apricot glow. The windows were cute with their small white shutters and sweet country ruffled curtains.
Of course the house wasn't perfect and definitely needed some work. It was decorated with much country charm throughout but the bone structure and skin which held it all together needed to be considered too. Still, my enthusiasm was keeping me from any negativism my mind might stir up.
Big Guy wasn't as enthusiastic as me and started to ask silly questions like, "What kind of sewer does this have?" and "Are you on city or well water?" As we were walking across a slightly uneven area of the living room's wood floor he even had the audacity to ask, "Has this floor been settled for some time or do you expect it to get worse?" I cringed when I heard that one!
Bringing back the sugar to my voice I said, "Sweetheart, this home is over a hundred years old, there's bound to be some adjustments."
But that didn't stop him and soon we followed our host to a very musty, cob-webbed cellar watching as he screwed in a light bulb that had been waiting loosely in it's socket. "So you poured a new concrete slab down here, was that when you added these new posts to hold up the main beam?" my Big Guy asked the young man, "Is there any trouble with water coming in; I noticed two hot water tanks; why is that area boarded up; is this a new water main?" the silly questions just kept coming and all I wanted to do was explore the rest of the property.
I retreated back to the top of the cellar steps in hopes they would follow and as I breathed in the fresh country air once again, all I could think about was the awesomeness surrounding me. The farmstead was only about an acre and a half of land and much of it was treed with old cedars, hackberry and of course, more piss-elms, but there was that same peaceful quiet that I remembered from my grandparents farm and the trees were whispering to me, "Stay with us, stay with us!" as the breeze blew just enough to rustle the leaves.
My Big Guy emerged from the cellar and together we walked the borders of the property all the while discussing the pluses and minuses of the place. For him there were far too many minuses and for me all I could see was the hopeful transformation from what is now to what could be possible later. That's what dreamers do; they look at the potentiality in almost everything.
"The price is too high for a small house like this and all the work... too much work!" he sounded as if he had just run a mile and was out of breath.
"But the possibilities..." I began to say before he cut me off.
"The possibilities will cost a fortune!" he reasoned and sadly I knew he was probably right.
We headed back to the garage where we found some more late comers rummaging through what seemed like less stuff than when we first came. After saying our goodbyes to the young couple and walking back to our pickup truck to leave, I paused for a moment to draw in another breath of fresh country air. Then with my optimistic and somewhat unyielding spirit I took one last long look at what I hoped could someday be the farm of my dreams.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV