“At Least There Were Bluebirds” by Kori Frazier Morgan

Photo by Skyler Ewing on Pexels.com

My husband and I used to live in an old house in rural Ohio, a one-story, swaybacked ranch with asbestos siding covered in peeling, red lead paint. The house was built in the ’30s, but was demolished and rebuilt twenty years later, leaving the foundation uneven with a slight rise in the floor. The house had been on the market for three years when we bought it, two months before we got married. The young, newly-engaged couple was taken for suckers.

The house was built on a three-and-a-half-acre plot of land, on a hill overlooking a small pond and a creek. Two enormous trees, one oak, one walnut, were stationed like sentinels at either end of the property. We imagined picnics under the tree, summer Bible studies by the creek for the children at the church we were helping to plant, and an enormous garden that would blanket every inch of the property. But gardens cost money and time, and the trains that barreled by on
the tracks across the street from the house drowned out any conversation, leaving no room for the words of children.

The minerals that poured into the well made it the hardest water in the state, and within two months after moving in, my hair turned brittle, forcing me to shower at the gym. And even then, every two weeks pasty, orange rust stains would cover the bathtub, which I would then scour with a corrosive lime mixture, my shoulders aching, my hands sticky with sweat inside vinyl gloves.

But the worst part was the loneliness. It stretched for miles, leaving me aching and empty. No neighbors. No one nearby. And even when we went into town, there was the pain of unbelonging, the feeling that no one cared, not even the ones who were supposed to. Because our property was so remote that only satellite internet was available, even my online connections had to be rationed, reserved only for my work-at-home job, with no frivolous uses allowed. The Ohio
winters were bitter, and there was no electric heat. We could not consistently afford propane.

We held out hope that we could make the home into something, but it became too much to handle. By then, the church we’d planted had grown into something twisted, choking the life inside like clinging vines, strangling the life inside, and the new fellowship we were led to join was an hour away. The best option was to renovate and sell. When my husband opened the electrical box to begin rewiring the house, the wires disintegrated in his hands. He spent years making the house livable so we could get rid of it and abandon the discomfort, the isolation.

One afternoon, I was sitting on the back of my husband’s pickup truck reading when I saw a streak of blue and orange move in a small tree near the house. It was a bluebird, perched on one of the limbs and fluffing its feathers. Then another bluebird landed next to it, and then another.

I put down my book and watched them, studying their bright feathers, a shade of orange smudged into their breasts like blended dabs of an artist’s paints. I’d seen bluebirds before, but only quickly passing through. That afternoon there were three, and they stayed, bright and lively against the sun-soaked green leaves.

Nine years after we moved in, we finished the renovations in the middle of winter and finally sold the house. It was snowing when we backed down the long driveway for the last time.

We live in a small town now, with a reliable electrical grid, internet, and clear water. Just three blocks away is our church, and I frequently see friends as I ride my bike through the streets. Our house is warm, large, and comfortable, with consistent heat, clean water, and plenteous internet. I am thankful to know these pleasures. In our backyard are flocks of robins, the occasional cardinal, and a family of rabbits that burrow their babies every spring.

But there are no bluebirds. I often wish that there were.

Kori Frazier Morgan

Kori Frazier Morgan

Kori Frazier Morgan is an author and editor from Northeast Ohio. Her stories, essays, and poems have appeared in many online and print literary journals, and she is the author of The Goodbye-Love Generation, a novel in short stories that explores the impact of the Kent State shootings in 1970 on a local rock band over a period of fifty years. She is the founder and chief literary strategist of Inkling Creative Strategies, an author services company that helps writers reach their full creative potential so they can impact and inspire readers. For more information, visit www.inklingcreative.work or follow Kori on Instagram at @inklingcreativestrategies.

3 responses to ““At Least There Were Bluebirds” by Kori Frazier Morgan”

  1. I love this, Kori! You make me feel like I’m inside that crumbling old house. I’m so sorry you had to go through all that labor and disappointment. But thank you for the reminder that there is beauty (like those bluebirds) even in the “ugly” places. It reminds me of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Rook in Stormy Weather.” : )

    Liked by 1 person

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