My two sisters and I got together this weekend for our annual GirlZ Weekend. Because we were trying to do things on the cheap this year, we met at my one sister’s house in Charleston, WV, where we all grew up. My sister had planned many surprises for us, but the best of all was that she got in contact with the woman who owned the house we grew up in, and she welcomed us in to look at every part of the house from top to bottom.
It was the first time I’d set foot in the house since Mom sold it in 1992, a couple of years after Dad died. They’d lived there for 50+ years. I was 32 years old before I woke up on Christmas morning somewhere else than in that house. I still have moments when I think about some object and know exactly where it is. Uh, was.
The house went through some very tough times after it was sold, the low point being when it served as HUD housing for a single mother with eight (!) boys. It was bought by someone who put a lot of money into it – new siding, new windows, etc. Then an ugly, public divorce ensued, and the house was on the market again.
Every time I visited my sister, one of our regular activities was to “stalk the house.” We’d drive by and then drive though the alley so we could see the back yard. That was a heart breaker. Mom’s abundant flower beds, the two huge New Dawn rose bushes by the garage, the Blaze rose covering the arbor that arched over the back gate, the bed of lily of the valley underneath the kitchen windows – all gone. Everything was now unkempt lawn.
The last time my sister and I stalked the house, we ran into the couple who lived next door, and they said the current owner had told her we were welcome to stop by any time.
My sisters and I always talk about how we dream about the house. My older sister and I both dream about the closets being full of all these clothes we didn’t know we had, or a secret passage through the closet into a room we didn’t know was there. My sister who lives in Charleston has nightmares about having to get my aging parents out of the house because of some impending disaster.
All in all, it was a wonderful visit. We looked in every closet and went down in the basement. The narrow shelves that my dad built on the stairway – they were just the right width to hold baby food jars – were still there. My sisters and I laughed about how small all the rooms had gotten. The owner really enjoyed hearing about what the house used to be like. It was very good to get the vibe that the house was loved and cared for.
The yard was still a mess, but the new owner saw the possibilities.
We’re going to gather up a bunch of family photos and give her copies. The only thing I managed to get from the flower beds (stolen in an act of guerilla gardening during one of the house’s bad times) was bleeding heart. I feel like I need to take start of it to the new owner.