The car bumped slight on the old road, a road tar-cracked the same as it was four decades ago. It is frozen in snow on this day and and frozen in time all the other days.
I see the first farmhouse on the left has gotten a sprucing up.
My mother says it first.
I‘ve always liked that house.
I think it’s because it sits pretty, its long side with the front door greets you right off when you come around the bend. Someone put a tree in the right spot flanking the house’s short end by the road. I instinctively look up.
I am eight years old and I am looking for the owl.
Is this the branch?
Maybe it’s the one up ahead. I can’t be sure. I know it was right about here, where the branches spread over the road.
Memory is like that.
Peripheral things like branches are a mist. It’s the heavy hitters that make the biggest impact, that leave a most discernable mark.
These marked a child well during the farmhouse years:
A rare sighting, lasting for weeks, of an owl perched stoic, head turning at children waving.
Howard’s Farm, unchanged and brick-dug into the earth, New England postcard perfect against the snow and stonewall boundaries.
Barbed wire slashes through long woolen mittens after coming to rest at the end of a sledding adventure through evergreens and sharp hidden fences.
Slaughterhouse dogs chasing and gnashing, gnashing, gnashing.
Hay diving and rope swinging in barns forbidden, laughing, laughing, laughing.
Tractor trailer trucks bullying a little green pickup, pushing, pushing, pushing.
The memories of where I’ve come from herald loudly on a day when all is calm, all is bright.
My mother and I drive through the little village where glass shards once flew and telephone wires once sparkled on gasoline drenched pavement. The village is quiet on this late December day and not much has changed here either, but there are marks under the snow that she and I share. We know the empty space where the fire station used to be is ground marked by twisted steel and hinges come undone. We know that just a few yards up the owl searching eight year old stands shoeless and looking for her mother.
We reminisce a little. We tell a couple of stories.
We mention Reney’s Store and the new siding on the town hall and how the house on the curve isn’t as well cared for, missing its famously stacked woodpile. We don’t need to meniton the terror, the movings or the leavings.
We’ve come through them all and we are on the other side of things now.
Our wanderings of the past forty years have revealed one true thing:
He has never forsaken.
Jesus has not wasted a thing.
Looking back I see now the future He has prepared for me, one not wrought with calamity, but full of hope and, yes, even joy, despite all my wanderings and misunderstandings.
The indelible marks of the past make me who I am and I trust that in His hands, hands marked with Their own piercings, He will make a future that breathes hope for others. A future that glorifies Him.
My new year’s resolution is to be resolute in this:
Because I have been marked by Him, Jesus is my future and my hope.