When I was growing up my absolute favorite place to go was to the library. And my favorite library was a remnant of 70’s architecture with inexplicable angles outside and uncomfortable chairs inside. It was nestled among a multitude of giant pine trees at the top of a hill so steep it was an act of faith just to drive in and out of the parking lot. But in spite of the awful architecture and questionable location, someone on the original planning committee must have had an imagination, because that wonderful, old, ridiculous-looking library was the only building to be found on a little road named Storybook Lane. My childish fancy took boundless delight in the very thought of a library living on Storybook Lane. For although the carpet was worn and the vertical pine paneling terribly dated, that library seemed to me to be a living place, inhabited by people both real and imagined who I loved to visit, taking me to places in my mind and heart that I would never actually step foot in.
When I was a teenager, the city finally decided to build a new, modern library with glass-walled study rooms, a separate wing for the children’s department, communal computers, comfortable reading nooks in every corner, and refreshingly updated bathrooms. And while the building was so new it echoed and so clean it squeaked and so level we no longer prayed while turning into the parking lot, it was now found disappointingly on Old Brandon Road, and somehow in all the professional landscaping and shining tile floors it was no longer the living, breathing friend I had loved for so long. There’s a lot that can be said for history, for the binding of one generation to another, for the quirky corners and uninspired aesthetics that give a place character and help to mold it into a being with whom we may have a relationship.
The unending yard work we began on our property last summer took a brief hiatus during the winter months of rain and mud, but it’s back in full swing now that spring has kept its promise to return. One side of our property line has been horribly overgrown, nearly jungle-like for ten to twelve feet inside the double line of great trees that separates our little piece of land from the neighbors’. My family and I have spent many, many hours clearing out and burning all the brush and thorny vines growing in abundance down that line. We’re making wonderful progress and look forward to repairing and replacing parts of the old fence soon, but we decided to check with our nearest neighbor first to verify property lines so we can determine exactly what is ours to finish cleaning up.
We learned that long ago that space between the double line of trees was called the old Schoolhouse Road, because it was the route rural children took to get to the local school. Jonathan and I were intrigued and did some investigating. It turns out that this generations-old path still runs straight through our neighborhood as well as the neighborhood across the main road from ours. The path ends not far from our house, where the forest was long ago cleared and turned into farmland. And on the other side of the neighborhood beyond us, the path was turned into a regular road. My mind whirled as I heard Steve’s information. Right here, in our own backyard, was a beautiful piece of history. I looked down that double line of trees and could almost see little groups of farm children, lunch pails in hand and strapped books hanging over their shoulders, trudging along on their way to school. It was enough to set my history-loving heart aflutter.
I plan to pursue this new information with the local historical society to see what else I can learn about our area, but even the little bit of knowledge I now have adds great character and meaning to our home. In this place with its slightly slanted kitchen countertop, unmatched wood floors, and somewhat wonky walls (courtesy of a previous owner who was a rather inept DIYer), I work diligently to raise lifelong learners. How perfect to live off of Schoolhouse Road! Every day I teach my children and some days I also teach their friends. We read and we talk and we experiment and we play and all the time we are learning and growing and becoming the people we are going to be. It’s a beautiful, messy, gloriously hard labor of love that I wouldn’t trade for all the world.
Once upon a time, not far from where I am sitting now, there was a rural schoolhouse where farm children pursued their education. Based on the few descriptions we’ve heard so far, it was probably a small school with few teachers and students, but perhaps those teachers cared deeply for the children in their charge and bore well the sweet burden of opening their eyes to the world around them. I find it inspiring to sit in the shade of our trees and dream as I look down that long-neglected path. I’m transported once again to a time and place I’ll never get to experience and I can easily imagine the giggling children, the patient teachers, and the wonder of young minds unfolding.
Sadly, our homeschool doesn’t reside on Storybook Lane. But we are bound on one side by our own towering pine trees and on another side by the old Schoolhouse Road, and the magic that brings to our home inspires me to keep pressing forward. Over time, we’ll replace the dying trees along the old path with young ones ready to take their place alongside history, just as we’re raising this next generation to stand tall and strong and straight as they grow.
I already loved our home and all its quirks simply because it’s ours. But I love it more now for the presence of Schoolhouse Road and the beauty that adds to our days.