Behind the little house in which I spent a happy childhood — where I toted books from one room to another, where I knelt by my bed nightly to pray, where homemade biscuits buttered and sprinkled with sugar were a favorite treat — is a little shed that, to the outside world, is noted for its ugliness.
It is an ancient truck trailer that, I feel certain, was given to Daddy probably 50 years ago by someone who was anxious to unload the ghastly thing. Daddy, never one to turn down anything free that could be used practically, had hauled it to the backyard and settled it near the barn. He filled it with shelves, and Mama joined him in filling the shelves with things like gas cans, old Mason jars, garden hoses and anything that should have been thrown away, but those children of the Depression could not bear to be so frivolous. He also stored the riding lawnmower in there.
It should have been hauled away years ago after Daddy died and Mama took to piling all her junk in the pantry and forgoing trips out to the back. It is still filled with remnants of their lives such as a cracked plastic dishpan that is colored the harvest gold of the 1970s and jelly jars that had been saved to be used as drinking glasses. Curiously, there is a black, rusted fire screen. We never had a fireplace, so I don’t know where that came from. My guess is that someone offered it to one of them for free, and they took it just in case they ever needed a fire screen.
The wooden floor is caving in and it has, no doubt, become a haven for snakes, spiders, bugs, birds and possibly a bat or two. I keep telling myself, "This has to go." There are moments when I think I can be strong and watch as it is hauled off to be discarded in a junkyard somewhere. But those moments are exceedingly brief because my eyes will suddenly tear, and I will physically shake off such a silly thought.
Yes, there is a bit of me that is like my parents. I hate to part with it because I might need it one day. But that’s not the case with that old, ugly thing. It stays where it is because of the symbol of faith it is. One day, I was walking the yard with some visitors. I pointed out my favorite maple tree by the creek where I spent many a day with a book or a writing tablet. I motioned toward the windmill and told its story. We sauntered across the backyard where I stopped near the ugly storage shed.
"This is the ugliest thing in the world, but let me show this."
Behind the building are a few cement blocks stacked where Daddy had built an altar of sorts. He knelt to pray daily, especially when the storms of life grew particularly rough and, as he often said, "I need to grab hold of the mighty hand of God."
By the time he died, he had worn the ground bare from the frequency of his bowed knees.
One of the visitors eyed it with tremendous respect.
"That’s really something."
He shook his head.
"I can take you to the place where my daddy got drunk. I can take you to the place where my daddy left my mama. But I can’t take you to a place where my daddy prayed."
We stood there for a long moment, thinking of all the prayers that had floated up over that ugly shed.
"What a legacy you have," the visitor continued. "Do you know how special that is?"
Yes, I do. That’s why the ugly thing will probably always have refuge in that backyard despite my occasional urge to dispose of it. I just can’t bear to let it go.
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