The House in the Horseshoe, a 1770’s era backcountry plantation, lit up for Christmas. In a world of changes, places like this remain constant.

This past weekend marked my mom’s 85th birthday. To celebrate, the family got together and took her to the House in the Horseshoe. Now, touring an 18th-century historic site may seem like an odd choice for an octogenarian’s birthday party, but we’re an odd family. We all love historical stuff–many of my childhood vacation memories revolve around visits to houses, battlefields, even historic towns (Old Salem, anyone?). Places like this are fascinating to me, but there’s another benefit to them: in a world that seems to change by the second, historical sites tend to remain constant.

Everything Changes?

When I say “everything changes”, I mean everything. And these changes come at us so fast, they can be hard to handle. And, it’s not just the social stuff, it’s the physical features of the world around us. You don’t realize it because you don’t see it every day, but even the place you call home is changing. This truth really hit home for me when I moved back to my hometown after being away for 22 years. It was a weird time for me. I’d be driving along in an area that looked nothing like I remembered only to turn a corner and be transported back to 1990–when I moved to Raleigh–because literally nothing had changed. This one little spot looked exactly as I remembered it. Interestingly, there are times when I still feel that even now, 10 years later.

Deja Vu All Over Again

I experienced that Saturday evening as I drove, along with my mom and my son, down to northeastern Moore County, NC, where House in the Horseshoe is located. We were passing through communities that I hadn’t seen in almost 5 years and, of course, changes were expected. There were some, but not as many as I had anticipated. And, the further we went, the fewer changes I saw. There were a couple of new houses along the way, maybe a new church, but that was it. By the time we got to Carbonton, a crossroads community near the site, it looked the same as it had every other time I’ve been through there.

A Unique Connection

That sameness continued as drove down the road where the site is located. My family has a unique connection with the House in the Horseshoe: my brother was on staff there for several years and it’s the site of many happy memories for all of us. The last visit for me was in 2018 when Jeff roped me into helping with the annual reenactment of the skirmish that occurred there in 1781. That’s a good memory even if it was August-in-North-Carolina hot that day.

A Moment Frozen in Time

Now, you’d expect something like a historic site to be frozen in time. They are and they aren’t. Every one of them is always looking to the past, trying to find clues that will help them arrange things in a way that will paint the clearest picture of what a particular historical moment might look like. This time, if there were changes, they weren’t immediately obvious. The place looked exactly the same as I remembered it. Maybe because it was dark. Or maybe there really hadn’t been any changes. But, it really did appear to be frozen in time. Only that time was 4 years ago instead of 240.

The Moment Thawed

That image didn’t really though. I didn’t speak about it to anyone else at the time, but my brother’s ghost seemed to lurk in the dark corners, haunting a place he loved so much. To say it was jarring is an understatement. It was that same unsettling feeling of moving from the unfamiliar to the familiar I described a few paragraphs ago, only the movement was happening all at once. It was the same old House in the Horseshoe I’d been to so many times that I knew it like the back of my hand but, without Jeff, it also… wasn’t. Everything just felt off.

Everything Does Change and There’s Not a Damn Thing You Can Do About It

Whether we like it or not, change is inevitable. It can be hard to handle, though, when it comes at you so fast. Especially lately, when it’s been like drinking from the proverbial fire hose. This has a lot of people disturbed, frightened, and pissed off. As unhealthy as they are, these are still natural reactions. Especially when even the places you saw as a sanctuary aren’t immune to change. Unfortunately, I haven’t always been as understanding of those reactions as I should have been. I tried but I didn’t really get it until last weekend. But I do now. And who knows, I might even remember it the next time I bump up against them.