Part 3: Welcome Home
Back out on the gravel road it didn’t take long to go round the bend to Orchard House. On the right stood grape vines wrapped around wooded trellises, and not far ahead on the left sat a row of gazebos and small buildings with a large hand painted sign reading “The Artist’s Village. Open every Friday -Saturday.” Across from that, a graveled drive led up a small hill to the house. I made the turn and passed through an opening in the fence, watching as the big white farmhouse came into clearer view. I passed by a large magnolia tree in the front yard and parked beside the house. It was a huge structure, painstakingly restored on the outside so it looked like it must have appeared in my parent’s time. The front porch was small; a mere shadow of the house, but one could tell it was full of rooms and history. Getting out of the car, I felt like I was instantly transported back in time to when large families all lived together, mothers and fathers, their children and their spouses, and their children, all under one roof. The fact that it was surrounded on three sides by the massive fruit orchard gave me a feeling that this house was too big for one person. Probably why the dog came free. And free he was, running wild towards me. I barely had time to prepare myself for Jackson’s excitement over having company. He barked hello several times, then parked himself at my feet waiting for me to pat him. “Well hello, you must be Jackson,” I said rubbing the top of his head, which made his tongue hang out, drool and all. I laughed. “I’m going to need a bib just to pet you.”
I stood beside the car with Jackson at my heel and took in a deep breath. Even the air was different here. Gone was the smell of car exhaust, trash tossed along the roadsides, factory smokestacks spewing forth their poison for the cluttered masses. No, in this air I could smell the magnolia tree in the front yard, the peach blossoms and apple trees, the wildflowers that grew around the house. I could even catch the scent of that most glorious smell from my youth, honeysuckle. As a young boy I had traipsed through near meadows of it at my grandparent’s home, and here it was again, that sweet scent on the breeze as if to say, ‘Welcome to your second childhood. We have been waiting. ‘ If only I could have believed such a thing were possible.
I got my bags out of the car and began to lug them around to the back of the house. Here the house could truly be enjoyed in its splendor. A large porch wrapped around the back. On one end, a gas grill and one of those old metal porch swings. Not the kind that hung on chains, but that gained its swinging motion from metal runners like a rocking chair. On the other end of the porch sat a pair of metal chairs with a glass and metal end table between them. The glass was painted with roses looping around vines, reminding me of church windows. Beside the chairs was the back door, adorned with a wooden plaque with painted apples and peaches on it. On it was painted the words, “Welcome home. Friends enter.” I got the key out and let myself in. Turning back, I looked to see Jackson had stopped and was sitting at the foot of the steps. Probably trained to stay off the porch, I thought.
Setting my bags down, I saw that I had entered into a large room that served as both kitchen and dining room. On the left side was a wooden dining table, covered by a tablecloth decorated with images of apples in baskets. Four chairs sat around it, and a fake flower arrangement served as the table’s centerpiece. To the right was the kitchen area, tiled with, you guessed it, apple painted linoleum. A modern kitchen bar stood in the center, while along the walls were all the conveniences of a real home: refrigerator, electric range, a washer and dryer stacked on top of each other, sink, and cabinets. Looking out the kitchen window, I could see rows upon rows of peach trees, all blossoming pink. A small door led out the kitchen to this side of the yard, and as if in trance, I followed it out into the orchard. The scent of colors took my breath away. The trees blanketed the land, canopies of pink blossoms stretching far into the hills, making me feel as if I had just stepped out into an alien landscape in some other world. “Dorothy, I don’t believe you’re in Kansas anymore,” I whispered to myself.
Back inside the house, i inspected the kitchen, pulling out cabinet drawers and seeing what kind of things they kept around. Everything for the perfect kitchen could be found here, from silverware to cooking pots and pans, to steak knives, and pizza cutters, and all manner of cooking utensils. It seemed when they furnished the place they didn’t leave out anything. Hand towels and wash cloths hung neatly by the sink. Everything was cleaned and in its proper place. Off the kitchen an open door led into the small bathroom. It was cramped and in one corner stood a hot water heater. An old fashioned sink sat in another corner, a porcelain basin sitting upon a pedestal. The bathtub was the old style. It sat up on clawed legs and made me think of cowboys in these old westerns relaxing after a day on the range with a cigar in their mouth and their hats still on their head.
I returned to the kitchen and picked up my bags. I walked through the dining room and into a living room area. Here there was a real fireplace, a couch, couple of chairs, an old TV with a VCR hooked up. I noticed there wasn’t a DVD or blu- ray player. This didn’t surprise me. The TV sat in a homemade entertainment center, its top shelf lined with VCR tapes, mostly western movies and old shows. The bottom shelf held old fashioned board games for families to enjoy, checkers, parchesi, backgammon. Looking out the living room window, I could see the magnolia tree, and beyond it the artist village and gravel road. It instantly made me weary from my travels. I sat my bags down on the couch and looked back towards the kitchen. The tour of the house could wait. I needed a bath and I needed it now.
It took me awhile to get used to the tub. After all, for the past several years all I had taken were showers. Life had been so hectic, I was always in a rush, and I barely had time to stand still, let alone sit still in a bathtub. But here at Orchard House, there was no shower. Just this big claw foot bathtub. I almost had to force myself to stay in the tub, draping my arms over the high sides, and letting the warmth take me away. There was a half empty bottle of Bubble bath, so in this rare moment I poured nearly a fourth of it under the hot running water. I have to admit that it was relaxing, laying there in the luxurious warmth and bubbled splendor. I felt like I could nod right off. And nod is just what I did.
“Orchard House & The Heart Of Everything” 2016 Paul D Aronson.