Does this house look familiar? It might. There is definitely ‘something’ about this house. Why, it could very well be in your town! Or perhaps you might have drove by one that looked like it in a town nearby. But no, THIS house is on Main Street in Ashville, Ohio and this is a painting that hung on the walls of that house. Archie Stewart, his wife Clara Lou and their three girls all lived in this house. As a young father and husband, Archie used to fret a lot about whether his job at the gas company would allow him to make the mortgage payment on this house. Happily, it did.
Walk with me….
Up those front steps is a porch swing that has fallen down on the startled, unsuspecting victim on a multitude of occasions! However, it was the perfect vantage point for watching the annual 4th of July Parade roll by where teams in a rainbow of brightly colored softball tee shirts would toss candy from the back of pick-up trucks (decorated, of course, with homemade poster board signs, crepe paper and glitter glue) to the delight of little kids anxiously waiting along the parade route. The band would march by with drums banging and the flag corps twirling, the local fire company trucks would undoubtedly blast their horns and the coiffed candidates for Miss Fourth of July would wave perfectly practiced hands at everyone on both sides of the street from their perch atop a fancy Corvette or a shiny new Cadillac.
For the longest time, on either side of those front steps, were those old paper thin, see through “coin” shrubs that you could peel apart and blow the tiny brown seeds away in the wind. Walking down the drive way to the garage that held the famous double-seated bicycle, on the right hand side, you’d come across various shades of roses, all perfectly pruned and straining to reach the sun. A couple of bird feeders hung from low branches in a tree in the backyard, hoping to attract birds, but cardinals in most particular. Said back yard overlooked a long downward slope, which made a perfect spot for chipping golf balls (or stale Christmas cookie balls) towards a small lazy creek which provided a great spot for casting a small hook fishing pole on any given weekend with little grandchildren.
On the side porch there was a screen door that would always slam shut if you weren’t careful and led to a small pantry area with a large, noisy and very outdated upright freezer that entombed tiny Barbie-like figurines dressed in pink and blue piped-icing dresses, plucked from a daughter’s bridal shower cake and stored away in its thick icy walls that perpetually could use a good de-thawing. Suspended in the small window overlooking the aforementioned back yard, dangled a small crystal prism that would cast its rainbow brilliance around the room. In a kitchen corner stood a wooden curio, filled with a lifetime collection of chinking, chiming bells in porcelain, glass and metals varieties. Over the sink were small tiny shelves that held a small collection of antique perfume/medicine bottles in varied shapes, sizes and colors. The cupboards held bygone treasures, even a blue and white – rusty corners and all – metal saltine box from the 40’s or 50’s that had been beaten and battered through time’s usage. The floor once witnessed an impromptu “bobby sock” dance between giggling siblings and their spouses at one of the most memorable 4th of July parties remembered while big band music wafted through the kitchen. The dining room held a large, long wooden table which was surrounded by chairs (and often a piano bench) that were filled with loved ones gathered for seasonal holiday dinner parties (or a cherished birthday fondue dinner). Squirreled away in the back of the built-in dining room hutch, in what was likely the most boring toy ever invented, a vintage plastic set of “barrel of monkeys”, packs of well-handled playing cards and a horde of family picture albums. An electric organ that held mountains of sheet music and booklets, silently lay in wait for its owner’s talented and nimble fingers to dance upon the keys.
The bathroom shelf held a supple, worn Victorian style button boot and a glittering sequined little purse from a relative long past. The lower level bedroom would always gently smell of powdery roses from a collection of perfume bottles on the top of the large mirrored dresser. On the nightstand, sat a wooden perpetual calendar with small wooden blocks and always held a scribbled in journal and a pen or pencil.
Upstairs was a virtual time capsule – barely altered since the last of three daughters married and left home – and contained stretched cola bottles from a county fair, a fishing net with big colorful glass baubles that hung on the one wall and a bright yellow satin “coulda been from the 70’s” comforter adorned an old white bed. A tiny storage room to the left of the landing was filled with life-sized Styrofoam head forms topped with forgotten wigs and masses of clothing & shoes accumulated through the years. A wooden dresser in the back bedroom held a trove of sparkling costume jewelry, most of which were still tucked away in tiny little cotton-lined gifting boxes.
It was in this house, from the dresser up in that back bedroom, my grandmother pulled out a slender black box that contained a sparkling necklace/earring set she received on her 10th wedding anniversary from her husband and handed it to me to wear for a prom. In that dining room, I gobbled down my uncle Robert’s handmade croissants, copious amounts of my mom’s macaroni and cheese (the recipe, of which, she’ll likely take to her grave since she won’t share it with anyone), aunt Amy’s much-requested deviled eggs and aunt Lori’s picture perfect pumpkin pie while slurping bowl after bowl of my grandfather’s delectable ham & bean soup through our various shared holiday meals. In this house, children anxiously anticipated tins and plates of Christmasy cookies exchanged with church ladies’ groups that also held my grandmother’s cherished Buckeye candy – a tradition now carried on at Christmas in my own house. And it was in that living room where I sat at my grandmother’s feet, saying goodbye to her for the last time and positively breaking down into shuddering, heart destroying tears as we drove away from that house.
On an overcast and drizzly late afternoon in September 2002, I received the news she had passed in that house. And in that same house, where they raised three girls and lovingly welcomed grandchildren and great-children, he joined her a few years later from what I’m sure could be easily be considered a truly ‘broken heart’. Now, this house is about to leave our family after 60 years of life and love. It’s entirely bittersweet, particularly this time of year when he left us just days before Christmas in 2006. And while the time has come for this house to hold another family, I can’t help but hope that the love we all experienced there and the memories that are contained within those walls, will welcome the new family as they build their lives there. I hadn’t realized (or appreciated) how attached, affected and entwined my life had been involving this house until I started writing and recalling all those lovely, cherished memories about THAT HOUSE.
Goodbye, house. ♥