We were forbidden to go there under any circumstances, so of course we went as often as possible. It was dangerous, we were told. The building was falling down. Someone had fallen through the floor from the second story. We could get hurt. It could all collapse on us and kill us. Just the slightest wrong move could bring it down. AND it was private property.
Miss Trimmer’s barn and house was next door to our farm. It had been empty for as long as I remembered. I had no memory of any Miss Trimmer, but I pictured her as a tiny, white-haired lady who had mysteriously disappeared. Probably the reality was that she had gotten too old to live alone and was off in a nursing home somewhere.
Her beautiful whitewashed stone house sat on a slight hillside, gently set back from the road. It had windows trimmed in light blue paint, and a decaying roof. The lawn was green and old roses had gone out of control on the perimeters, lavishing their abundant vines and blooms in every direction. The lawn was cut occasionally by someone, but the rest of the property was badly neglected. The photo below is NOT her house, but it has something of the feeling of it, if it were whiter and surrounded by luscious green growth.On the side of the property, almost hidden by a heavy overgrowth of berry bushes, roses, and trees, was a collapsing old barn. It was dark brown and 3 stories tall. Some of the boards had come off the sides, and part of the roof had fallen in, so that shafts of sunlight pierced through.
The ground floor appeared to have been a garage, probably for carriages. It had an open garage-size door that faced the street, but no vehicle could have driven through that tangled overgrowth in those days. Above the garage was the fabled hole through the ceiling where someone was reputed to have fallen through from above. At the back, in the darkness, was a rotting stairway to the upper floors. Some steps were missing, but my brothers and I made our way through the cobwebbed darkness, across the dirt floor, and up those stairs. We held our breaths with fear of death, expecting the whole building to fall on us as our dad had predicted. But our sense of adventure carried us over our fear.
Inside, on the second floor, was the most exciting place. It was an abandoned country store, cash register on the counter frozen in time, rusting items everywhere, a glass Mr. Peanut jar, empty but enchanting to us children. Mr. Peanut seemed to be watching us sneak around as he reclined in his top hat and monacle!Rusty kitchen utensils lay about. Old signs were decaying on the walls. Cabinets and drawers were full of spools of thread, thimbles, canned goods, fabrics, tools, buttons. Everything was the color of rust or dust, layered in cobwebs and dirt. Whispering, we fingered each item and rummaged through each drawer until we knew the place by heart. We tiptoed gingerly across creaking boards, always watchful not to be the next to plunge through the flooring to the garage below.
At first we only went into the barn, and it was enough. But eventually we began to wonder about the house and to creep through the yard, around to the back, and peek into the windows. With our childish imaginations, we were never sure that someday Miss Trimmer, or someone or something even more scary, would be inside peeking back out at us.Photo by Graeme Kerr, 2006. I think it is England, but it reminds me of the countryside near our home and near Miss Trimmer's place.