Nostalgia

We were house-hunting, the young new wife

And I, recently a grandfather for the second time.

I didn’t want some cookie-cutter confection

Of soulless, all-electric efficiency

Done inside and out in seven shades of neutral.

I found a real home

A hundred and forty years old on eleven acres

(“Needs some work,” the ad said cautiously.)

The patio stones were rough-hewn

And edged with deep, emerald moss,

The apple trees were old past bearing.

The ancient, heavy door creaked a tired greeting

And my wife said, “Is it…do you think…

Is it haunted?”

The outcome was already plain

So why not have some fun? “Naw,”

I said, “But the mousetraps

Go off by themselves, the lightbulbs pop out

If you mention a dead person’s name,

Sometimes hot water comes out of the cold tap,

And the last time a baby was born here

There was a shower of silver dollars

From the ceiling onto the kitchen table.

Look: you can see nicks in the wood where they landed.”

Her eyes rounded

And she hugged herself

Inside her winter coat.

I showed her the huge, deep zinc sink

Where they washed everything

Even the collie.

And the foot-wide, punkin pine floorboards

Not made for three generations.

And in the cellar, the rows

Of cheap, planking shelves

For preserves of pears, apples, and tomatoes

Put up in glass Ball jars, bought by the dozen

From any dry goods store in America.

I defined “dry goods store” for her.

I told her how a hundred years ago

Two little boys brought in a bushel

Of fresh tomatoes from the truck garden,

One holding each side of the basket, puffing,

So proud to be helping Mommy and Daddy.

I defined “truck garden.”

I told her there are two pecks in a bushel.

I might as well have been talking particle physics.

Afterward she stood outside

With her hands in coat pockets

And the cold wind wraithing her long hair

Silent, but with misery oozing out of every pore.

No reason not to accept the inevitable

And I do love her, so, “Hey,” I said,

“There’s a new house over on Kirkwood.

Never lived in. Let’s go check it out.

And I swear the old, narrow, mournful,

North-facing bedroom windows winked at me.

— Andrew Hubbard, Brown County