Someone hit the house with the hay wagon at least once every summer. Sometimes the corner outside the kitchen door, sometimes the brick planter, too close to the driveway on the side of the house, sometimes the roof right where the narrow driveway opened out into the yard. We knew that it would happen. Not enough that we expected it, but enough that when we were playing Barbie dolls on the living room floor and we heard a bang and felt the shudder, we knew what it was.
Nothing terrible broke. It was never that bad, just some splintering of the wood and a few bricks out of place on the planter, just a little thing wrong, always a nagging thing that needed to be fixed, a thing that no one ever got around to and no one ever mentioned.
Later that day we would laugh about it at dinner, like a badge of honor for the one who had done it. As if it hadn’t startled us. As if the hit hadn’t made us want to hold our hand up to our cheek and touch the pain.
We knew it would happen every summer, as if there were no way to save us from it happening again. We sat outside on the planter and absently ran our fingers over the cracks in the bricks, while we drank Kool-Aid and ate cheese and crackers with the neighbor kids, debating the best kind of toothpaste to prevent cavities and discussing what we should be when we grew up, all the time wondering if the planter made everything about our house seems just a little bit broken, not quite as nice.
Did anyone else think that? I don’t know. Who knows how much pretending would cover a multitude of sins.
My brother finally knocked the planter down, when our parents had moved out, when he alone of all of us stayed on to run the farm, to fix the things that were broken. I can picture how he did it like I was right there watching, even though I couldn’t have been. We had all left by then. I can imagine what it felt like to finally have it gone, how he had used a tractor and a heavy chain wrapped around the base, pulling until not one of our temple of bricks was left on top of another.
Eventually he built another driveway on the other end of the farm, so far from any building that even the worst driver among the hired hands could do no damage, a driveway with no slopes and no sudden curves, a driveway wide enough to fit redemption.