What Do You See? By Katherine H. Purdy

I don’t know about you, but when we drive past an old, vacant house, my mind immediately slips into imagination overdrive! So much comes to mind.

  • Who built this old house?
  • What did it look like when it was new. Did they paint it? Plant flowers and bushes?
  • They must have had a large family – there are two additions!
  • Where are they and their descendants now? Do they still own the property?
  • How could anyone allow that adorable house to deteriorate so badly? Don’t they care?
  • What did it look like inside? Gingham check curtains at the kitchen window? Cast iron stove or porcelain? Linoleum covering the floor or all wood?
  • Was this a honeymoon cottage? It would have been perfect for a young couple just starting out.
  • Was the yard surrounded by a white picket fence and did their little ones swing on the gate?
  • Did they know the Lord?


As you see, my mind scripts a scene for the lovely family who once lived in the home which is now an abandoned shell.

I know the history behind the house in this photograph. It was the home of my husband’s great grandparents. This house is located near the Cowpasture river in the Virginia highlands.

Several years ago, John’s parents and his Aunt took us to see where the McKenny family once lived. As soon as I stepped out of the car, it was as if I was watching history unfolding before me. A few months later, the Lord reminded me of the event and the following (very long) poem came to me in a flash and I had to write it down.

The Homeplace

By Katherine Purdy

01-09-02

 I glanced at the calendar today

And was transported back

To the lovely in 1997

When you and your sister

Took us to the home

Of your Mother’s youth.

The calendar displayed a beautiful sketch

Of your Grandparent’s now vacant home.

The McKenney House on Cow Pasture River in Virginia.

I fondly remember the day.

It was inspiring to see

The home where my husband’s

Great Grandparents had lived and loved and died.

The heritage of their love and faith lingers still

In the hearts of their decedents.

 

We arrived with anticipation.

The view was breath taking.

The mountains were draped

In a lovely quilt of green and blue

The Cow Pasture River played a lovely

Tune as the water trickled over the rocks

And the fish danced.

 

I don’t know what I had expected,

But the empty, decaying house

Truly spoke to me.

 

As I looked beyond the gray, cracked wood,

Broken windows and screens;

It suddenly became alive to me

With love, joy, laughter and song.

 

In my mind’s eye I did see

It was more then just a house.  It had been a home.

A place where a loving Mother and Father

With faith and discipline taught their young

The lessons of right from wrong

And as Christians, to be strong.

 

In time, these children would grow to be adults

Then return with families of their own to gather and reminisce.

To share words of love and hope and wisdom

In times of joy and even in despair!

 

As I walked around the house, I could almost hear the joyous sound of laughter as children ran through the yard and played games of tag or hide & seek.

The sound of the back screen door clapping as little feet ran in and out

Despite Mother’s gentle reminders not to slam the door!

 

Was it my imagination or could I smell the sweet fragrance of

Freshly baked Bread; kneaded gently with strong, work worn hands

Of a busy wife and Mother to feed her dear family with just churned butter?

 

The clothesline would surely be filled every Monday morning

With freshly laundered clothes drying in the gently breeze.

Did the children enjoy the fresh smelling clothes and sheets

That would give the scent of lovely sunshine?

 

Would the sweet smell come to mind on breezy summer days,

Transporting them from the cares of an adult world to the

Lazy, playful days of childhood snuggling each night

Under the freshly laundered sheets

Reminding them of their gentle, caring Mother?

At the very least; it would surely transport them “home”!

 

Although we could not go inside and look around;

I could imagine a worn spot on the floor in front of a well-used cook stove

Which had produced thousands of delicious meals to fill hungry tummies.

There would also be another worn spot in front of an ancient sink

Probably with a pump faucet where Mother and daughters carefully

Washed the family dishes as they shared hopes and dreams as they worked.

 

Somewhere in the house was a table where Father sat

Reading his Bible and writing by kerosene lamplight.

What a wonderful example he was to his young ones!

 

Outside was a large empty barn

Where horses and cattle were kept fed and safe and warm.

Were there memories of currying the animals?

Or hay rides and snuggling under blankets to keep warm?

 

 

There must have been a garden with vegetables planted in neat rows.

Mother would water, harvest and can them to feed her family

During long winter months. Oh, her cheeks must have been aglow

As she did such hard work; knowing the joy it would bring in months ahead.

 

Tomatoes, Corn, and Potatoes. Squash, Onions, Beans

Stored neatly in the nice cool cellar.

Cucumbers for Pickles, Pumpkin for Pie.

Applesauce, Apple butter, Jelly and Jam.

Oh, the treats you would make

To bring a twinkle into everyone’s eye!

 

Although grass and weeds are now unkempt,

It must have once been a well cared for yard.

Along the fence, beautiful rose vines still grow.

Were flowers also planted in nice, neat rows?

 

 

I could envision so clearly some mischievous boy riding

A trike or throwing a ball into Mother’s prize flowers!

To make amends, he would bend and lovingly

Pick the most beautiful flower with tiny fingers

To bring to his dear Mother.

 

As the years went by, children grew up

And left home to start families of their own.

They would come back for special events

Like Birthdays and Holidays or After Church Dinner.

Often in summer to picnic under the trees

And less often on cold snowy days.

 

They are all gone now.

The McKenneys are now in their new home in Heaven.

They have been joined with their children and some grandchildren.

Now, Emilie and Louise both Granddaughters

Have beautiful crowns of fluffy white hair;

Recipients of their grandparent’s prayers

Now sweetly share the love and wisdom from above

So lovingly taught to them by these precious ancestors.

 

As I looked at both of you that day,

I thought “what a remarkable thing.

You have a rich heritage of love and caring.

We didn’t come just to see an old house.

It was the love and family that you were sharing!”

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When you drive past an old, abandoned house, what do you see?

When we look at people, we often see their faults and failures. Aren’t you glad that God looks at us through the love for His Son who gave His life for us? He doesn’t see a broken down body – He sees your heart.

Man looks on the outside, but God looks at the heart.

 

 

 

 

 

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