Empty House

The afternoon’s end finds me on a remote road, looking at an abandoned house. No one’s lived here in a long time, save for intermittent squatters.

It’s the first day of school for my high school sophomore. Although I’m at this property for work, I keep thinking of my daughter.

Behind this house are two immense white pines. I stand there, listening to the breeze rising off Lake Eligo, imagining what it was like a hundred years ago to farm here. What will it be like a hundred years from now? The question looms impossibly.

I bend down and peer through a missing pane of glass in the door.

In Yaa Gyasi’s Transcendent Kingdom, I read a line from Thoreau: “Not till we are lost, in other words not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.”

In so many ways, that sums up my experience. But that lostness I know now, is hardly a brief experience. The thing about the pandemic is that it’s exposed all the weaknesses in our society, and in ourselves, too. In my own world, I see acutely how pandemic has highlighted the near impossibility of single parenting, as I find myself these days unmoored, the thinness of my life exposed.

These days, in my work, I’m able to listen to people’s stories about how they’re experiencing the pandemic. These stories are often so much about loss — particularly about families separated — and worry about an uncertain future. Surely, I think, if there’s a time stories connect us, it’s now.

So on this first day of school, with the sweet scent of Vermont’s fall, with so much uncertain, I walk around this abandoned house, thinking of how time flows on. Near the step, I find a tiny plastic pig. Using the hem of my shirt, I rub dirt from the creature, then leave the toy on the broken step, hoping a child will chance upon it.

About Brett Ann Stanciu

A writer and sugarmaker, Brett Ann lives with her two daughters in stony soil Vermont. Her novel HIDDEN VIEW was published by Green Writers Press in the fall of 2015. Let my writing speak for itself.
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4 Responses to Empty House

  1. Nancy says:

    Great post. I know that house, I’ve looked in it too! (On Lake Rd, right?) Old places like that, stone foundations from mills & houses way out in the wilderness, always make me wonder in awe about how their lives must have been so long ago, so far away from any village or town. Such truth in your words…

  2. Yes! That is the place, on Lake Road. I see we share an affinity for these mysterious places…

  3. thank you for this post. i’m a single mom too. never had it been harder or more heart-wrenching to live so far from family. i hope a child does chance upon the pig; a wonderful and joyous surprise in the midst of the turmoil.

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