While chatting with some other visitors at the Winfield Chamber of Commerce yesterday, I noticed a picture of an old frame house. Unless my imagination was playing tricks on me, it is a picture I’d seen there before. For some reason, Bill Graham’s “White Farm House” had a more profound effect on me yesterday, and I’m really not sure why.
Somehow, the watercolor rendering reminds me of the place where Pap and Grandma Bazzell lived near Coldwater, Kentucky. It reminds me of their place even though it looks nothing like it. Maybe it’s the simplicity of clean lines and the lack of ornate embellishments. The honesty, if you please, of the construction: wood boards nailed to wood frame, painted white.
Maybe it reminds me of the people I knew and loved in Todd County and in Browns Grove. Raymond Stokes, Preach Simmons, Roy Morris. Jack Harrison, Alvie Farris, Fred Harrison. A host of others connected by faith and family, culture and sub-culture. Years of crops and cows, harvests and milkings. Friday night frog gigging, hay curing in the sun, church on a summer Sunday morning. A cappela singing and funeral home fans fluttering along lines of hardwood pews. Softball and ice cream on Sunday afternoons.
Maybe it’s something even deeper than all of that.
Even though I’m pretty sure I’ve been in several similar houses, I’m really not certain that I was ever in a house even close to being exactly like that. And yet there was something powerfully familiar and homey about it.
Maybe it’s the sense that I could step up on that porch and already know which board will creak the loudest. Maybe it’s the feeling that if I reached out to knock on the door, it would open for me and warm voices would welcome me inside. I’m pretty sure that I would smell supper cooking on the stove and see a fresh pie sitting on the enameled counter of an old sideboard. There would be an extra place already set at the table and a chair waiting for me. For some intriguing unknown reason, I think that painting gives me the sense of being welcomed home to a place I’ve never been before.
I can’t explain it and maybe I don’t have to; maybe it’s something so primal, so mysterious that it’s deeply embedded in each of us, even though it might be triggered by different things. That sense that there’s a better place waiting, a place wonderfully new and yet fantastically familiar. A place where people we’ve loved and lost will be sitting around, sharing stories and joys and wondering why it took us so long to come home.
By God’s good grace I will one day stroll through Heaven’s pearly gates. Once I pass by where all the big houses and grand mansions are, I’ll eventually get over to my new place. If it turns out it’s just an old wood-frame farmhouse, that’ll be just fine with me.
I hope you’ll drop by and visit for a century or two…