Since it’s too hot to breathe outside, perhaps this is a good day to stay in and post an update on the bungalow demolition. I’m grateful for air conditioning and my study’s ceiling fans, luxuries which Jessie didn’t have when she likely sent these three out into a steamy Greenwood summer day, 1926, telling them to play paper dolls on the porch or hopscotch on the sidewalk. I wonder if she was in the kitchen with Bama, baking teacakes and fixing the girls lemonade, or perhaps she had carved out a bit of time just for herself, to read or listen to her favorite radio shows. And who knows why Sara is clutching a pillow; in most of this era’s pictures, she’s wagging around a raggedy doll or a book. Maybe this was a foreshadow of her adult years, when her preferred spot was her big bed, whether she was making bottle dolls or mixing up cake batter or writing a story for the newspaper. I’ve never known anyone who could accomplish as much in a semi-recumbent position.
Back to the bungalow: Day by day, it vanishes from Strong Avenue, moving brick by brick and beam by beam out to Holmes County. The roof is about 1/3 gone, revealing attic rafters and joists that were fashioned by carpenters nearly a century ago. Their craftsmanship continues to amaze us as each layer of the house peels away. The chimney is coming down this week, leaving dark mortar and soot in the high grass of the lot. There’s not much left to deconstruct, mainly the porch bricks and the floors, and then we’ll be ready to call in the bulldozers to finish it off. That will be a tough day, and one when I will once again wonder, as I do so many days, whether I have properly honored my grandparents in this crazy venture.
Our farm shed is packed with doors and windows and sash weights and lintels and molding now; along the fence are 6000+ bricks, looking as if they emerged from the oven just last week. Architectural drawings cover our dining room table, plans for that old wood and those perfect bricks and generations of memories to be reshaped into a “home in the woods” for our children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren.
I’ve dealt with old houses all over Mississippi, everything from elegant to ruined, for a very long time. Some are saturated with the spirits of those who built them and loved them, a very palpable presence that is in no way frightening or unnatural. The bungalow, happily, is one of those houses. And I’m delighted to say that whatever Evans family influence marked it as a place of joy in Greenwood has survived the piece-by-piece trip out to West. There’s just nothing like turning a doorknob which your mother turned with little sticky fingers in 1925 or looking through the window which your great-grandmother raised to call the girls in for teacakes. The circle is, for sure, unbroken.