This I Believe

grace - Atwood, Illinois
Entered on October 16, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family, hope, legacy, work

This I believe:

I believe in the power of impossible dreams.

A lost photograph drops from a book. In it my husband Jeff is seated on the back end of a fallen oak tree; his shoulders slumped, his gaze drifting over the long trunk into the wet, green spring. This three hundred year old tree had given up, lost its grip on life in the shattering winds of an unexpected storm. I recall deciding to take the picture to capture a side of Jeff I had not known yet, defeat. As I pressed the camera’s trigger I wondered about this man and his impossible dreams.

Jeff had a dream—a dream to rebuild his great, great, great granduncle’s house. Built in the 1840s, it was the second Harshbarger homestead in Central Illinois. Two families lived in a still standing log cabin while Jeff’s great, great, great granduncle built this brick house. Jeff and I have found photographs from the 1860s to the 1970s of the glorious old house. The oldest one shows Jeff’s ancestors dressed in their Sunday Bests seated on chairs in front of the house; two boys display the family’s worldly possessions: horses and chickens. The house, painted white with dark shutters and a wooden porch that shades the family’s servants, was a mansion in those days. In a more recent photo a man stands in front of a stucco wall that takes up the entire frame. Our neighbors tell us his family was the last to live there.

Once a house is abandoned, it does not take long for it to crumble. This house, like the oak tree, gave up over time. Its roof fell, the plaster walls caved in, and finally, mercifully, a fire took what little could stand by itself leaving a shell of brick walls. Still, Jeff said the foundation looked firm, and picking up trowel and mortar he got to work on it and his dreams.

I could believe in Jeff’s dreams, because I had witnessed such dreaming before. My father builds airplanes, not model planes, but real airplanes that he flies! As a child I fell to sleep to the drone of a drill burrowing balsawood pieces soon to be fashioned into the bi-plane’s wings. As I grew older and more capable, I joined my father in his workshop watching with goggled eyes as twisting flames melted iron rods into a fuselage. If my father had his dreams, so could I. So could anyone, and anyone I would love.

After six years of brick by brick patience, Jeff and I live in the old house. This house and the dreams it took to rebuild it remind me to believe in the power of impossible dreams.