Gerrit Kleinheksel and his wife Bertha set their minds to building a big sturdy farmhouse in 1905. The deep dark pine was abundant and the fresh scent of sawdust filled the air as the handsaws sliced back and forth. The finished home had huge bulkheads leading from the kitchen, through a dining room, ushering them through double doors, inviting all to the front room. Two staircases cascaded into the large front parlor area. Every doorway, window, and baseboard was built with wide panels of pine. The wood shined brightly when rubbed clean every Saturday. Huge windows allowed sunlight to burst from each direction. Never did they miss a sunrise or sunset.
Large panes of glass brought forth daylight to accomplish their daily tasks. By night they would light the kerosene lamps to sew, read, or take their Saturday night baths with heated water from the coal stove. No matter if the harvest was bountiful, or hardship remained, they believed in God’s provision.
Gerrit felt blessed to provide his family a warm, simple, but solidly built home. He worked hard in the fields and barn each day. After their evening meal, he reached for the bible. The lamp lit the passage each night, praying in the dim light thanking the Father above.
His first wife, Emma, had passed away a few years after they had a little girl named Josephine. She played in the barn and picked dandelions as her daddy and stepmom, Bertha, worked hard on the farm. They would revel in the soft breeze which swept through those corn and wheat fields surrounding. The Lord revealed Himself in nature with the grain they held in their hand, the tornado passing by, or the badly needed rains to refresh.
Josephine was the only child until she was 17 years old. Her mom and daddy had a little boy named Gordon B. Josephine loved to hold him and help with chores around the home. But as women did in those days, she married young, and was soon living on the next country mile helping her own husband on their farm.
Little Gordon grew to be a teenager of 18, when tragedy struck. Across the street, his cousin, best friend and neighbor noticed Gerrit’s barn doors didn’t open one morning. The reason was revealed as the day went on. Gerrit had been taken to the hospital after a horse kicked him in the stomach. Young Gordon became a man that week. He was charged by the “dominie” at his father’s funeral, to take over the farm and care for his mother.
As time went on, Gordon B. married a beautiful young woman from town and they called the family farmhouse their own. It was filled with six children who came over a 17 year span. No matter what the weather they worked the fields and cared for the livestock in the barn. There were tough and joyous times.
Martha was indeed a city gal, but from very little means, so she was not afraid of hard work. She was trained in several instruments and and played her piano to relax in the evening. Music filled every corner of the home deep into the woodwork. The wood absorbed the love, laughter, music and tears that happened inside those walls. Her ink pen was dipped into the ink, recording the events on her diary page every single night before she placed her weary head on the pillow.
Gordon and Martha held firm to their faith, as they were provided for during harsh winters, rainy springtimes, bountiful harvests, and many a storm. The farmhouse was filled with boisterous activity. Gordon also reached for the bible after every evening meal. They raised their children and held them up with open hands. Seven bedrooms were often filled over capacity as cousins came for summers, Martha’s sibling’s families often visited from other states, neighbor kids played. Everyone was welcome at the kitchen table. Many were drawn to Gordon and Martha and the home was filled to the brim.
The family changed in so many twisting and turning ways over the years. Martha died unexpectedly and that set into motion many, many changes over the next 45 years. The family kept evolving in painful and joyous ways. The farm grew as Gordon’s two sons and two grandsons continued to farm. One daughter died, two stepmothers died, and the other three daughters eventually moved and had their own homes and families. Gordon’s health got him long before he would have agreed to it.
As you might know, Gerrit and Bertha were my grandparents, Josephine was my Aunt, Gordon and Martha my parents.
The time came this fall, when the house was demolished. The farmhouse will always remain home in my mind and heart although it’s not there. Now the sawdust has settled for good, the swing tree is gone, the hollyhocks have disappeared. Cats no longer roam the yard.
For 110 years it was a bustling home. Now it is a silent, flat piece of land. One tree stands to usher in the rays of the sunrise each morning. Farewell, my childhood home.
My heart is where my home is, and my home is where my heart is.
Do you have a childhood home story? What do you think about the connections of your home and heart?