There is a house near the southern edge of Arkansas. That house no longer contains the magic and mystery and comfort that it once held. It sits vacant now. It has done so for several years now. Although its interior has changed little – furniture sitting unmoved since the days of my childhood, its transcendent quality has deteriorated with each passing year, much the same as the wood decays on its exterior.
In days of yore, the house was the epicenter of adventure, dreams, exploration and childhood fantasy. Kids played around, under, over and in the endless pine forests surrounding it. They were often called in to supper, not by voices but by fragrances of fried foods emitting from the kitchen windows of the house.
My father lived in the house beginning sometime in high school, and my uncle and aunt also made it their residence. Although their rooms still bore telltale traces of their young lives, it was the rowdy passage of all their children that left the greatest mark (or marks) on the house.
- A wooden camel figurine brought back from Jerusalem erupted into shekinah glory in the fireplace one summer as an experiment.
- A set of dainty China cups were cracked and shoved to the back of the China cabinet away from casual viewing.
- A shotgun hole in the side of the work shed was handily covered with a leaning plow.
- A porch swing was undamaged but knocked a cousin into the sticker bushes next to the porch when he wasn’t prepared for the speed at which another cousin pushed it back at him.
- Hot Wheel cars logged more mileage down the hardwood floor hall than a farmer’s Chevrolet.
- Rumor has it that there is actually glass still missing from a few picture frames in the house after rowdiness broke them and fear swept them up and threw away the pieces quietly.
It is the house’s emptiness now that saddens all those who once enjoyed it. Grandkids have grown and now have kids of their own. Visits to it now are more like pilgrimages, and the occasional relative departs with a treasure only with the permission of the house’s guardian and heritage keeper. Both of its longtime tenants have transitioned to a better house, one with heavenly rewards.
And so the house sits forlornly in the pine forests of southeast Arkansas. It beckons all, but few come. It offers powerful nostalgia and memorable, albeit musty, ambience for any who would tarry. Its sole activity in these days of dispersed relatives and deceased owners is simply to… rot.