Over the weekend, while John and I were out for a drive, we visited my family homestead at Garlinghouse, near North Cohocton, NY. This is the home where my Grandmother lived with her parents and her brothers and sisters.
The house is on a dirt road, the kind of road that is really just one lane. If another car approaches, someone has to find a place to pull off the road. It is really off the beaten path. When I was growing up, we just called the house “Garlinghouse,” but now I realize that the whole area is named Garlinghouse. I wish I knew more of the history of the place.
Driving down the road toward the house, memories of my grandmother flooded over me. We rounded a corner and I could see that the abandoned house we always saw just before reaching “our” house, had finally succumbed to the elements and was no longer standing. That house had been beginning to fall down when I was a child, but now there was no sign that it had ever existed. I was afraid to travel the last few yards, afraid to see what condition “our” house was in.
My family still owns the land and the house, as far as I know. Not close relatives, but relatives that have always said my sisters and I can visit whenever we want. No one has lived there in years, since my distant cousin returned from missionary work in Costa Rica and needed a place to transition to “American” life. The house looks like no one has lived there in decades. It made me a little sad to see it all boarded up, weeds growing up all around it. Still, it is my homestead and I love it. Part of my heart is there, in the house where my grandpa paid my cousin a penny to “get lost” when he was courting my grandma.
There is a lot to explore on the property. I was always afraid of the spooky outhouse, but it did not look so frightening in the middle of a field of goldenrod. Still, I didn’t go near it. There is a beautiful little creek that runs behind the house, but the weeds are so overgrown that we didn’t dare try to get there in sandals and shorts.
My grandma told me so many stories about her life at Garlinghouse and her family. I wish I remembered more. I wish I had written them down. Stories of her brothers, my Great-Uncle Leon who had something to do with inventing the original atom smasher, my Great-Uncle Howard who was a minister (and whose grandchildren own the homestead now), my Great-Aunt Maybelle, the beautiful and precious little sister that my Grandma doted on.
We only stayed at Garlinghouse for a few minutes. The house is boarded up and locked tight. The grounds are overgrown. Still, the air is cool from the canopy of trees overhead. There are flowers everywhere. The woods are alive with birdsong. There is a peacefulness from the sense of stepping back in time. And my heart is filled with memories and love for my grandmother and all my people stretching back through the ages.