Wednesday, October 13, 2010
In rural southern Indiana, there are eleven acres of land that are mine. A section of the land runs along the road, where you can pull your car off into the grass and climb the steep hill to the highest part, past overgrown weeds and an old spring house, past cow paths, a grove of small cedar trees, and a huge rock where water rushes from the ground when it rains.
As a kid, Mom and I made a game of climbing the hill and not allowing ourselves to turn around and look at the view until we reached the very highest part, where the two sides of fence met in a corner by a huge sycamore tree. There, out of breath and sweaty, we said “Okay, now!” and simultaneously we turned to see the sweeping view of the valley, past the roof of our house far below, over the grey line of country road that led into far trees, past the green striped corn fields, to the other side of the valley where sat a house and a red barn that were small rectangles from our lofty view. The black and white cows in the distant pasture were tiny specks.
That land became mine after my mom died, and we sold her house but kept the acreage on the hill. And for years, I sentimentally envisioned building a house up there with huge front windows that could watch the view year-round, as the hills turned from green to autumn to snowy white, and the far away cornfields emerged, grew tall, turned brown, and were plowed into the ground again.
I knew I never really wanted to live in my hometown, but it was always nice to have that dream in the back of my mind. It was reassuring to know at any time I was welcome back there, that I was always connected, even legally, by insurance and taxes and the mowers who kept the hilltop clear every year to protect the view. I was always connected to my childhood because I owned a part of it.
I always said that if I ever sold the land, it would have to be to someone who knew my mom and would appreciate it. I couldn’t sell to strangers or to people who just wanted it for the lumber or hay or pasture. So when my cousin called to ask if we might consider selling, because she and her husband would like to build a house on it, suddenly I realized the land wouldn’t be mine much longer.
My cousin’s parents, and grandparents, owned the neighboring land, and as a kid I used to travel up our hill and through the woods to their houses. One snowy winter her mother, my mom, their dog, my cat, and I met on the hilltop at night where we built a small fire and roasted marshmallows for a nighttime snow party. “We know what a great view there is up there,” my cousin told me on the phone when she explained their reason to buy. Indeed, she would appreciate the land, just as I wanted.
The paperwork was emailed and signed and faxed, and now I know when I go back to Indiana for Thanksgiving, the hill will no longer be mine. Of course my cousin will welcome a visit anytime, and I can walk the little path where I used to explore and play Laura Ingalls, I can walk the fencerow where my cousin Jay tried to cross the fence while wearing a pair of red plastic skis, I can explore the old barn whose doorways are now blocked by twenty-year-old trees. But once their house is built up there, the land will no longer be wilderness, it will no longer be the land I used to gaze at through my back bedroom window, wide-eyed at the wild land and animals that I knew were up there. Instead it will be someone’s yard. And it won’t be mine.
Now that the land's paperwork is completed, we have new paperwork to focus on: a homestudy, autobiography, driving record, health check, Dear Birthmother letter – the paperwork for adoption. After over five years of fertility crap that depleted our bank accounts, the sale of this land is going to make us able to adopt – an adoption that was put on hold for years.
After years of waiting and hoping, years of bitterness and tears, the sale of my mom’s precious land is giving us our long-awaited family. My Mom has given us this gift. Of course she was the one who helped us in the end. Life always seems to come full circle.