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Essay: In spring, the daffodils remember the house that stood here

Daffodils that bloom every year at a property,

Daffodils that bloom every year at a property, now vacant, on North Woodhull Road in Huntington. The house was torn down in 2013. Photo Credit: Clare Lowell

There is a house that I pass every day on my morning run. I should say, there was a house. It’s gone now. Bulldozed. Forgotten by many.

People in my neighborhood in Huntington weren’t sad to see it go. Although the house was far from deserving landmark status, it was owned by the same family for several decades. It was grey clapboard, two stories, with three steps to the front door and a bay window off the kitchen. The yard was surrounded by a 6-foot-high stockade fence.

An apple orchard was nearby. The roof had been gone for many years, even before it was empty, its skeleton rafters covered only by a blue tarp that billowed in the wind and stood out on Google Earth like a shiny square lake perched atop the home. Gaps in the stockade fence revealed several rusted cars on the 1.3 acres.

Someone planted daffodil bulbs, dozens of them. The perky little flowers dutifully lined the broken cement walk that led to a front door whose porch steps had rotted away. The door had a hand-written sign taped to its top window that warned visitors not to ring the bell or knock.

But, not long ago, children lived there. They decorated pine trees in the front yard at Christmastime, and hung the flag on the Fourth of July. When one of the adult children returned from the Iraq War, a hand-painted sheet with her name and rank was draped in front of the house, proudly welcoming her home.

Eventually, the family was gone and the once-proud home fell into further disrepair. The house and its large yard were sold in 2012. The house was demolished in 2013, the cars junked, and a new stockade fence erected around the property. In the winter, the new owner stores shrink-wrapped boats there.

I sometimes wonder whether anyone else notices the void. While no one misses a zombie house, with its protracted degeneration, rotting shingles and irreversible decline, does anybody walking past speculate about what once stood here? Do they think about the family that once called it home?

I sometimes think of what used to be. I remember a bee farm. I remember the aroma of the leaves burned there in autumn bonfires. But, most of all, there are the daffodils.

I never knew who planted those bulbs. I only knew that, every year, they burst forth in all their springtime glory, full of hope and beauty. Every spring, they bloom in two straight lines, in hopeful expectation of leading visitors to a front door that has ceased to exist. I stop on my runs and look at them.

Every spring, the daffodils remember.

And so do I.

Reader Clare Lowell lives in Huntington.

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