Postcard from Hardwick
Walking through Hardwick, I often deliberately pass a small house on Winter Street my daughters and I checked out when I was looking for a house to buy. A friend outright forbid me to buy the house. My daughters insisted absolutely not.
Strange things had happened in that house. When someone had last lived there wasn’t clear. Possibly the house had been abandoned for a few seasons, or an elderly person had passed their final years in those rooms, the dust accruing incrementally, mote by mote, into dense layers. The tiny kitchen range had likely converted into a mouse palace. Strewn with broken cobwebs, the bedrooms reeked of crumbling horsehair plaster. The sink in the only bathroom had been relocated into the upstairs central hall. We puzzled over why that had been someone’s good idea. Cracking open a bedroom closet, we discovered a gold-sequined evening gown, as though Sleeping Beauty had risen and fled with her prince without packing her trousseau.
In odd contrast — perhaps to snag a buyer beyond the rock-bottom asking price — the exterior clapboards had been so recently painted the house glimmered as though it had been dipped in a giant bucket of heavy cream, its front roof peak festooned with lacy gingerbread.
Built on the edge of town, the small house perches above a log yard where Cooper Brook winds by and a hundred years ago trains ferried enormous stone extractions from the earth. The cluster of small houses and mobile homes reflects a mishmash of the debris of the past — a K-car parked in a side yard, a rusting winch cable — and an optimistic pride displayed in the black cut-out curlycue BELIEVE propped in a north-facing window. Overshadowing that neighborhood, Buffalo Mountain rises soundlessly, its crest smoothed by the millennial movement of ice, stone, and wind.
In the human pace of life, at the Tops grocery store in town, I chat with an acquaintance waiting in line, too, and soon realize this young woman with ample black curls bought that Winter Street house. Overwhelmed with the house’s deterioration, she confesses she’s now proceeding room by room, digging through broken paneling to discover the bones of the house, built squarely by skilled and now-nameless carpenters, over a century ago. Robert Frost famously said on his 80th birthday, “In three words, I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.”
This summer, high-bush white roses sweetly scented the house’s front yard. On the porch, a child’s yellow Tonka dump truck parked beside a wicker chair. The realm of strange things happening in this house had passed by. In the front window, beneath a stained glass transom, a red geranium bloomed, sure sign of folks at home.