History is no mystery, at least not when it comes knocking on your door as happened to me today when I opened my door and found an older woman standing there. On the sidewalk were two other women. It turned out they were sisters.
The brave sister (or perhaps it’s better to say pushy sister) said that she and her sisters had grown up in my house and that, if it was not too much trouble, they’d love to see the place. Turns out that their grandfather had built the house and lived here until his death.
I was delighted to let them see the house. They wore their kindness and memories on their face. I like history and wanted to know more about who had lived in this home.
Their grandfather came from Ireland and built my house and the former barn behind it in 1883. He also built the house next door for their uncle. Their uncle was a fireman as is the man who currently owns the house next door.
In this modest Colonial in Dorchester that my husband and I share alone, their extended family of three sisters, grandpa, mom and dad, and an uncle lived. They shared the one tiny bath. Where our half bath on the first floor is , there was a small screened-in porch in their time. The room that was their shared bedroom is now my study. The sitting area outside the two second floor bedrooms was their grandfather’s room and they used to have to tip-toe through it quietly on their way to bed. In the last year of his life, their grandfather’s bed was moved to the dining room on the first floor. Their uncle’s bedroom was on the third floor. They spoke with fondness of the banister where treats were hidden among the Christmas decorations. They confirmed for me that there had never been a fireplace. (Darn!)
Their mother was born and passed in this house, living here all of her 72 years.
The small house behind ours used to be a barn. It housed horses, chickens and a pig. They were thrilled to see the hitching post in front of the house intact, although they never saw a horse hitched to it during their lives, their family having owned an automobile. This modest house was one of the first on the street and had much more land behind and beside it than it does now.
Anyhow, they regaled me with a few tales of growing up. They didn’t stay long, not wanting to impose and on their way “down the Cape.” I told them that the cherry tree that used to be in their uncle’s yard next door had only been chopped down last year or so. The youngest sister broke her arm swinging from that tree.
I showed them a few glass bottles found on the property and given to me by the previous owners.
Meeting them was a thrill for me. Now I know two of the families who lived in this house. The last owner was a contractor with two small children and he did a lot of renovation on the house. His renovations and the peace and love in this house were evident when my husband and I looked at this house. This spirit called us back to it and we made an offer.
This unexpected visit filled in the nearly first 100 years of this house’s history for me. I hope that they will send me a photo of the house from an earlier time.
Recently a friend in Jamaica Plain sold the house that had been in her family for 90 years. While she has seemed pretty calm about the decision, I can’t imagine that she doesn’t have some feelings of sorrow at the move especially because she grew up with her siblings in it.
My house is the sphere of my marriage. It belongs to my husband and me. Our children come to it as visitors so I do not expect that they will have any feelings of attachment to it. (Perhaps it will be different for our grandchildren.)
A house is only a home if your dreams and memories live there. A house can be sold but the claim of others through their memories last forever.