I think I’ve always had a penchant for farmhouses. The lovely, the warm, the charming ones you see depicted in classic black and white movies of the 30’s and 40’s… or in white clapboard and huge-windowed beauty of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair.
Typically, they have an inviting air about them with wide veranda porches and crisp white curtains winking from bay windows. The more Victorian, the more gingerbread and character of these grand old ladies… places where I might expect to find a cozy English floral chair to read in by a fire, or to sample ladles of homemade soup with big chunks of fresh-baked bread in an inviting nook of the kitchen, or to tuck into a four-poster featherbed beside a double porcelain shade lantern lamp, coverlet and quilt at my chin, each night.
And friendly, open people who keep a candle in the window to welcome strangers in to share a story or two…
So, when the gift shop clerk at the apple and cherry farm asked if I’d ever considered drawing a unique structure at their place [you can read about that here: With all the frills upon it], it wasn’t the typical subject of apple haus or orchard groves or gift barn that came first to mind.
Mm… no, it was the beautiful old Victorian farmhouse just across the lawn from the shop I’d just visited… A place I’d admired from afar for a few decades and often wondered about. It would be fun to capture it on paper now… it made me envision a bit of the stories it might tell…
Though, I never could have imagined the book about to open to me next…
I felt a bit Nancy Drew-ish as I returned, camera in hand, picking my way across the slightly damp lawn in my tennies. The thing I love about small digital cameras is that they take beautiful photos. The thing I hate about them is that when the sun is out at all, I never really can see exactly what I’m looking at through the lens. I just have to point and shoot and hope for it to capture what I’m seeing on the outside. So there I was, clicking madly in the way you see photographers who are trying to capture the many moods of their living model targets…
I stole up close, snapped…backed up, snapped… made my way over to a large wooden platform wagon and scrambled up top to get a higher view…crept around the side and back, then returned to the front…clicking, clicking.
As if from a fog then, I heard his voice calling — just as I’d turned to walk away…
“Pam! Pam!” it came, urgently, startling me. This stranger I’d spotted off in the distance on farm vehicle – he couldn’t possibly know my name. No, I rationalized then…he must be calling “Ma-am!”
Oh, no! jolted through my thoughts like adrenaline. I looked around, realized though there were customers yards away, I was a lone person stalking, maybe a bit furtively, round the skirt of the house. Was he warning me away?
“You have to come back when the rhododendron are blooming!” he waved, indicating a sweeping motion at the bushes below the elegant bay. “They’re the brightest red! I think maybe… in May!” I could hear the smile in his voice then, the invitation…as if he knew exactly why I’d come and couldn’t wait to see me draw it.
His words echoed like laughter as I put pen to paper later… for surely, God had a hand in that timely message. I hadn’t even considered the blossoming hidden still by cold and sometimes snowy days, but he’d given me the perfect brightness, a spot of color I suddenly limned in mind for this piece.
When it was complete, ready to show, I slipped it into a clear sleeve with foam core to present at the shop. This was the part I never feel comfortable with… I was hoping for more than just compliments. A sale would be fantastic. An offer to hang on consignment, a nice perk. Walking up to the woman I’d spoken with earlier, I unwrapped it before her.
“Follow me!” she said, leading me out the door, across the lawn and up those porch steps before I had a chance to splutter.
She rapped a few times on the door, calling inside to the owners that she had something to show them, pushed me through the doorframe – and disappeared!
An elderly man made his way slowly to the kitchen where I now stood, picture in hand. I could read the surprise on his face…the unspoken, “Um…Who are you?”
Be calm, I told myself. To him, I offered – “Ms ______ thought you might like to see a pen and ink drawing I just did of your beautiful home –”
“Oh…,” he said, graciously. “Come in…” Leading through a room adorned with many other drawings and works of art, he brought me into a series of adjoining spaces to where his wife was coming towards us. She took the picture from my hands so they could look at it together.
“It’s beautiful…I think we’d really enjoy it,” she began, nodding to her husband for his thoughts.
“Let me show you some historical pictures I have here,” he said, not answering specifically, turning to look for old photo books – but just as suddenly changing me from solicitor to guest in their home. Someone to whom he wanted to tell some stories of old, share some wonderful bits of lore…
We talked of this 1800’s farmhouse, the original builders, how his family came to own and cherish it.
In a tired old man’s quaver, he softly added… “I’m not sure who’ll take care of it when we’re gone…”
“The children will, dear,” his wife attempted to assure.
I looked through the two open rooms from where we stood and on in to what looked to be a sitting room…amazed to be standing here, in this house, sharing a moment in time with these two…and hoped so.
“We have a lot of pictures,” he blurted then, apropos of nothing, waving around. “I do love what you’ve done…but I don’t think we need more.”
Disappointment is sometimes like a wave that rushes at you. Sort of leaves you queasy. Still – well, maybe there were other reasons for me being here… and the drawing had been my extraordinary pass in to this totally unforeseen moment.
“See this old catalog?” he continued, showing me an interesting pen and ink illustration of a piano that graced the original place… pulling out a photo of a 1600’s church in England where his ancestors were married. “This beautiful old church was damaged in the World War,” he expostulated, “and then they brought it to Missouri and had it rebuilt here, you know…”
Snippet after snippet, like quickly turning pages in a black-paged album of sketches drawn for animation, he spun incomplete little stories, here, there. It would be like trying to catch dandelion fluff in the wind, I thought, to hold onto his tales. Still, it seemed enough…to be invited into this divine appointment…just to be a listener to his giving.
“May I have your card?” he asked as I was leaving, reminding me of the old grandpa in “Meet Me In St. Louis” asking for his granddaughter’s dance card… He encouraged me to take the drawing back across to the gift barn, talk with them some more about it…
I did, but couldn’t seem to connect. Maybe another time.
God had shown me again… Look for the stories, the days with Easter bonnet frills stitched on them…
The next morning, I had a thought. Returned to the copy place to turn this drawing into a greeting card. I’d send them a note size of the drawing , thank them for the stories. Maybe include a few words of blessing. [I’d heard of some of their needs in conversations earlier.] I could imagine the smile on his wife’s face when she’d hold it in her hand.
Bread across the waters, Lord.
“Sometimes,’ said Pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”
― A.A. Milne
Have you ever found yourself in such a moment as this one … had some stories spoken into you when you least expected? Won’t you share a bit in my comments? 🙂
© Pam Depoyan
Farmhouse drawing – Mine, from my Picture It In Pen and Ink blog (https://pamdepoyanblog.wordpress.com/). Please do not copy without permission. See my copyright info button on the sidebar.
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