Day 23: Fireplaces, Ladybugs, and Chicken Feet

by marylee


Today, I vacuumed fireplaces, eight of them.

Our old colonial farmhouse shares the land with wild turkeys, deer, and coyotes. 

The spring thaw brings hundreds of ladybugs out of the cracks in the ceilings. They huddle together in the sunlight.  My son gently catches them and transports them to plants for safekeeping.

The oversized kitchen hearth boasts a bread oven that doubles for a hiding place for gifts, and a long, steel hook for cooking. A rusted pot dangles there and I often imagine what was stirred in it, over the past 300 hundred years. 

I lugged the soot out to the garden, for the 3rd time, and silently paid reverence to the hundreds of women who have cleaned out those fireplaces, over the centuries, without the aid of a wet-vac, electricity, and running water.

This house is a treasure.  We are only the fourth family to live here.

Governor John Albion Andrew grew up on this farm. Governor of Massachusetts during the civil war, he was depicted in the movie Glory, as one of the men, who established the first all black regiment; The 54th Infantry.

Indian shutters pull out from inside the walls for protection in case of an attack. Arrowheads are found in spring, when the cornfield is tilled and planted. 

I purchased a metal detector, against my husband’s wishes, but everywhere I pointed it, it beeped. What I need is an Un-metal detector to show me where there isn’t an old rake, handcrafted nail, or horseshoe.

The attic, a place I never go alone, has three cramped rooms where the indentured servants lived. I look at the shreds of wallpaper left on the walls and wonder who they were and how difficult it must have been up there in the sweltering summers and numbing winters. 

The attic’s mystery deepened when we discovered a centurion (voodoo). Chicken feet were tied with a leather string, and suspended from beam above the entrance. I have no idea what they mean, but since things have gone well here, I won’t disturb them.

Another untouched feature, are the enchanting murals in the hallways.  A man named Rufus Porter, who my friend Denise swears she has seen, hovering, in a long black coat, painted them, in 1835.

If any place can teach you not to over identify with things, it is this crooked, mysterious, charmed, old house.  It has seen us mere mortals come and go, but she still stands. She knows we were not the first to live under her protection, and will not be the last. 

The decedents of the ladybugs, who visit us each spring, will be here long after my family has gone.

Like the people in the attic, we leave signs that we once lived here.  We have entombed pictures, and letters in the walls during renovations, buried our beloved pets in the yard, and made our small contribution the distinctive, welcoming vibe, that everyone feels when they enter.

AndrewFairbanksTemplate.jpg

Day 21:  I let go of soot, perhaps an easy thing to toss, but did the work with reverence and gratitude for being a part of the history, of this old place that I love. (I also tossed some vases and candles just to make sure I got rid of something!) 

A Rufus Porter Style depiction of the Andrew/Fairbanks house and dogs in the yard. -Created by Martha Stevenson.