As a child, when I passed the Koester House, either walking or riding in the car, I’d long to enter the grounds and the house and see what was there, to feel like a lady in a white Victorian mansion. But I didn’t. The house had a Never Land quality to it, a magical place with flowers and trees and small statues of animals scattered across the lawn. A three-foot tall brick and cement wall circled the property with a cement sty, steps leading up to a white gate and over into the magical land.
I never went through that gate. I only looked at the house and dreamed. Ah, the dreams with which we build our lives.
I lived seventeen miles outside of town in a farmhouse built by Grandpa Albert’s father sometime in the late 1800s, about the same time as the Koester House was built in town. Our front porch we called the East Porch to differentiate it from the South Porch. The East Porch held crates of fresh eggs and the milk separator and muddy boots while the South Porch held an extra bed, the large chest freezer, and stuff there was no room for in the house. Not exactly wrap around elegant porches with carved grills. The outside of our farm house had tar paper shingles as many old farm houses did in those days.
I suppose we were poor, but then no farm family with six kids was exactly rich. We had what counted: food, clothing, shoes, school supplies, the books we wanted, and my favorite, a full set of The Child’s Book of Knowledge. But no elephant statues in the yard. No magic lands, except in our imaginations, and places in the timber that held swings made of vines and a huge fallen tree we called our elephant as we clambered up the side to straddled it and ride into far-away lands.
Last Thursday evening, I gave a reading at the Koester House and for one evening the house was mine. It was odd, stepping up those steps of the sty and over into the yard. Almost like a rite of passage into a new and different world. Last week, the lawn was filled with snow, but the fountain in front and the little, white-painted animals were still there, and the antler-shaped edging along the paths, while capped with snow, lined my journey to the front door. For that brief journey from outer sidewalk to the front door, I felt like a child.
So many things change in sixty years. Our farmhouse is gone although the farm remains. Marysville has grown into a prosperous town. I’m certainly older. But the little girl inside the lady smiled as she opened the front door.