August 29, 2014

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Cabin, house and home

By Jim Langham

In 62 years of living, many, many days merge into others. However, there are also a few that would stand out if they represented a hundred years of life. One such day was the day many years ago when I took my 101-year-old uncle, Manes Hirschy, back to his hometown for two days of reflection.

One of the most incredible aspects of the excursion occurred when I had the opportunity to actually go back to my “roots,” the log cabin where my grandmother, his sister, had been born on Aug. 10, 1886. The old cabin was still standing as a tool shed in the back of a farm in rural Indiana.

The amazing thing about his 100-year-old mind was how memories a century old came back to him as we pulled up to the remains of the old cabin. Things overall, of course, had changed so much that he recognized very little. However, when we passed an old farm about two miles from his home place, he recognized buildings that jogged memories of long ago.

He said, “Now I know where I am. Over there is the school (now inhabited by Amish) where we went to school.” It was the school where my grandmother had learned to speak English instead of her native Swiss language.

As we pulled up to the old structure, he studied for for a few moments and then he pointed across the open field that had been solid woods during his childhood.

“Right through there was a path,” he said pointing to an area southwest of the school building. “Dad cut a path for us so we could go to school.” At that point, his keen mind described every stretch and turn in the trail stretching from the school to his log cabin home.

From the school we drove to the site of the log cabin that had been built by his father. Inside the structure, the logs, chinking and the original windows that had been installed a hundred years ago were still in place.

The “old man” walked inside with his flowing white hair and he began to relive those days.

“Over there was the sitting room and there was Mom and Dad’s bedroom,” he pointed out. “Running along here was about a three-foot hallway; over here is where the kitchen was.”

Foot by foot, he mapped the log cabin of our family roots, the dwelling my grandma had lived in as a child. He described how his mother would sit on the porch at night and read the German Bible by the light of fires burning as the surrounding countryside was being cleared for farming. We walked outside and he looked at the north and west sides, which still had the log appearance.

“That’s it. That’s the way it looked,” he said excitedly. Several very precious pictures were taken of Uncle Manes in front of that old structure as many reflective thoughts went through my mind.

Many years have passed since that sacred day, but I still remember my thoughts as we pulled away from the old family log home on that day. I thought about our children and wondered what they would someday remember about their childhood. Even more so, would they remember a house or the “home?” What might they be telling their great-nephews years after we have passed?

“May God help each of us to continue to build a cabin of memories in the minds of those dear to us that will have values that will last for a lifetime,” I wrote in my diary at the end of that day.