Day One: The Barn Comes Down

As I write this, our barn is coming down. By the end of the post, it will be gone. It’s happening that fast.The splinters of its rotten wood are being pulled out of its old foundation, which itself is a thing of beauty: all brick and mortar and river rocks. There is a dumpster that up until a moment ago had a sister, equally full of remains. A bobcat stands idle, its claw resting on the November earth, waiting for its driver to return from lunch. The sun is shining for the first time in days, and I am not sad. I wasn’t sad yesterday, either, when I stood under an empty bird’s nest and said goodbye to my barn. I turned to the excavators and said, “I’d so hoped I wouldn’t have to tear this down. I wanted to build upon this existing structure.”

“No, you don’t,” said one of the men. Men. They love to destroy things.Yesterday afternoon, as the claw went for the metal roof, I was alerted to the return home from school of my son and his friend by their yells of joy. Are you kidding me? This is happening, right here in my backyard????? This morning, my son and our (male) dog sat transfixed as the claw went for the back wall, one window still framing a piece of our neighbor’s backyard.  And the boy in me dashed out with my camera to video the falling down of the last wall. But I was too slow to catch it–by the time i got there, it was already down.

Destruction is fascinating, said one of my (male) characters in the first third of my novel. He said that a few days ago, and I dutifully wrote it down during my weekend writing retreat. My contractor called me yesterday, as we were all sitting on the kitchen couch, watching the destruction, unable to do anything else. “How’re you doing?” he asked, in his friendly Texan drawl.

“Fine,” I said. “Why?”

“Well, I just know you loved that barn.”

“I did.”

I did love that barn. And contrary to my nice mansplaining excavators, I did really want to renovate it rather than tear it down and start over. I am a hoarder by nature, and even now, we are picking out many timbers of the old barn to use for the new one. But I’d come to terms with this demolition, and I feel profoundly peaceful right now, watching the action in my backyard.

As I have written, I am squarely in midlife. Some women get plastic surgery when they are my age. I want to re-do every room in my house. But I am living with a wise man and an eco-conscious daughter. The two of them hold me in check, even as my nine-year-old son eggs me on. If he had his way, we would build additions that would make our house look like something from the space age. I would, too. In my dreams, I am always discovering new rooms to my house.

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