THE LITTLE HOUSE
Once upon a time there was a little house
way out in the country.
She was a pretty little house
and she was strong and well built
said Virginia Lee Burton in The Little House, this year celebrating its 80th birthday.
If you do not know: The Little House is a sweet-sad story from a time when we were a wise-kind people, a people who in humility knew ourselves imperfect, a people who in goodness bore with equanimity the vicissitudes of change, who trusted in the right, in providence, with hope and with patience.
The man who built the Little House said,
[she] shall never be sold for gold or silver
and she shall live to see our great-great-grandchildren’s
great-great-grandchildren living in her.
Yes, we were a humble, good people who with patience trusted in providence before the days of forced busing, that government tyranny that chased families from their strong well-built little houses to large slap-dash houses far away. If you are over 55 years-of-age you feel what I mean.
In 1942 Virginia Lee Burton tells us that the little house did not like living in the city, that she would dream of the country and the field of daisies where the apple trees danced in the moonlight. And I can tell you that in 1962 on Asbury Park in Detroit’s Immaculate Heart of Mary neighborhood that daises grew in the park, that our little apple tree danced in the moonlight, that neighbors smiled, that day followed day into joy.
Virginia, author and artist, daughter of a university dean, sister of an architect and of a Supreme Court Justice, wife of a fine sculptor, mother of a successful businessman and of a happy, quirky sculptor, composed other books, books that you know, books likely to be among your favorites, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, for instance, and my favorite, Life Story, the abridged history of, well, everything, in an infinity sort of way. Rather puts The Little House in context.
No easy way to put the little 20098 Asbury Park house in context. Cannot say who lived in the house before my sisters, brothers, pups and parents lived in the house. Can say that the fine man who purchased our house … well, just before he purchased the house his wife died, and he might have abandoned the contract but he proceeded, preserving in love every house detail exact as she saw it, even to the perfectly balanced white-on-blue 20098 … that now, 52 years later, the 20098 is no longer a lovely white on blue suggests as did Virginia Burton…
The Little House was sad and lonely.
Her paint was cracked and dirty…
Her windows were broken and her shutters hung crookedly.
She looked shabby…
though she was just as good a house as ever underneath.
Recently, the Immaculate Heart of Mary has become a charter school, anchor of the neighborhood; house prices have increased tenfold; here and there are edged-trimmed lawns wise and kind, there are again flowerbeds and new planting, shutters are fixed and it seems that the sweet sad blooms intend to blossom. I cannot say that 20098 shall live to see the great-great-grandchildren’s great-great-grandchildren living in her, yet this is America where all that is good is possible.