I need to order my thoughts on this story, as I hope to write my brother (Hawk) a letter, today, to put in a box with some high school yearbooks of his which I found.
It began with a cousin of my mother's sending me a facebook message saying that as he had relocated his family to a new home, he was now hoping to clean out his old house and sell it, and my mother had left some things in his barn. Some time went by before I found a day when I could get down there to his old place, it being an hour's drive away. Of course, when I had time he was not available, but he said I could go on down there and I would find my mother's things clearly marked, in the barn loft on the left. I did not relish the idea of going into the barn of an old abandoned house by myself, so I contacted my cousin, Di, on the same side of the family, and asked her if she was up for an adventure.
A typical New England farmhouse in all but color - J.N. painted it a kind of pale orange with slightly more fluorescent trim - the place is tall and weathered with the barn attached at the back corner. As we climbed out of the car, taking the whole scene in, we noted that not only was one of the pair of large rolling barn doors standing open, but the house door was also standing open. Clearly some of the piles of stuff around the driveway were complete garbage, and had been there a while, but some gave the impression someone had recently been bringing things out, but had just left, possibly in a hurry. The gas grill just to the side of the driveway had grass growing up around it, but the fishing rod leaning against it had not yet been knocked down by wind. A small set of shelves on the covered steps had items stacked upon it - perhaps a baby bassinet with other fabric-covered items stacked inside it - which had not begun to mildew, as any cloth left out doors tends to do in a few days in our climate.
"Should we go in?" I asked Di.
"I didn't bring a gun," Di responded.
I wondered if I should loudly say that I was armed, but that would have been a lie, so I did not.
"We have no idea who's in there," she continued. "Sure."
We both sent texts to J.N. to let him know we were going in to his house to investigate why the door was open.
Inside was a bit of a shambles. It was surprising enough to me that there was some minimal, if badly worn, furniture, but then there were clothes and shoes lying around, lights and ceiling fan on, stereo powered up, half-empty fifth of whisky on a counter, beer and a bong on the coffee table, and a rifle leaning in the corner. (Yes, I could easily have stolen a gun last weekend. And probably should have, because anyone who leaves something like that lying around should really have it taken away from them.) Di took pics and sent them to J.N. and we continued on to the barn, wondering all the while when these people would show up - stoned? drunk? - and shoot us as trespassers. (The electricity being on gave their habitation a certain legitimacy, and we realized we'd entered under a false assumption, and really should not have.)
The barn was much the same sort of shambles only on a bigger scale - lots of furniture, lumber, mildewed books, at least two old exercise machines, several quite new looking bicycles that seemed in decent shape at quick glance, but were tossed in on top of everything else. Piles of small wooden boxes. There were several levels of lofts, and we picked our way to the back and found a set of stairs, but the things on the left in that loft were not marked in any way as my Mom's, and try as we might we could not find a way to get to the loft immediately to the left of the front door. At one point we went through a door, hoping there was another set of stairs, and found more lights on in a sort of back workshop area with a stand-up freezer, which Di teased me was where they stashed the bodies.
Finally I moved a ladder over and we climbed up to investigate a pile of things that looked somewhat orderly. They also were not marked, but some were my mother's. Others clearly had J.N.'s mother's maiden name on them, which is the same as the road the house is on. (Old New England families...) That was the only sure indicator that they were not my mom's, as his family name is the same as the maiden name of the grandmother Di and I have in common. (I'm honestly not entirely sure how J.N. is related to me and my cousin Di, because as far as I know our grandmother did not have any brothers, so I think one has to go a generation further back to find the connection. He may be a descendant of my great great grandfather.)
At any rate, it was old books and papers, two stuffed filing cabinets, the occasional broken chair. I was completely overwhelmed, and Di, who did not even want to climb the ladder in the first place, was amazingly supportive and understanding, directed my thoughts, helped me pack stuff into a random tote bag we found there, carried chairs down the ladder for me - I was impressed - and packed the car. We basically grabbed a very few quite random things and got the hell out of there.
Which is how I got three yearbooks which belong to my brother. Also, two dark lanterns, the two (broken) chairs that match each other, and some beads.
And then I went to her house to wash my hands and meet her goats.
Later we heard from J.N. and he says the people living in the house are his wife's sister (I think?) and her new husband.