I’ve never minded change. Change brings new experiences, new challenges. Change is good.
Until it’s not.
I grew up on a farm in east central Illinois where my father tenant-farmed for a large landowner. My mother was a registered nurse and worked part of the year in a hospital in town.
The farmhouse was a one-story building over a ground-level crawl space. When we first moved in, there was no inside toilet and no running water. A claw foot tub drained to a septic tank, as did the sinks in the bathroom and kitchen, but the water was hand-pumped from a well. The water was icy cold all year round. To get a hot bath, my mother heated pans of water on the stove and poured it into the tub until there was enough.
After the first winter, my father and uncle installed inside running water with a water heater. The outhouse was turned over to the spiders and snakes.
In all these years since I moved away from Illinois, I’ve still gone back at least once a year and sometimes more often. And each time I’ve visited, I’ve driven by the farm to stir up old memories. This is where part of The Prairie Grass Murders was set, and when I wrote that book, some of the changes had already taken place.
The first changes were small. The shrubs around the house were torn out and the porch that had extended one whole side of the house was removed.
Then the big old oak tree in the back yard disappeared.
The house stood empty for a long time.
And then on a trip a couple of years ago, I was suddenly disoriented, thinking I’d made a wrong turn. The place where the old farmhouse was supposed to be was empty. A huge plowed field. And then last fall when I was there, it was a corn field that seemed to go on and on forever. I drove past at least three times on that trip, each time feeling a little lost.
It shouldn’t surprise me that so much has changed, I guess. After all, it has been close to sixty years since my family moved off that farm. But still, I just wish that old farmhouse was there. And the shrubs and the porch. And that big old oak tree.