Friday, January 9, 2009

Finding Our Own Bit of History

This is the beginning of the series, The House on High Street. The entire series is indexed here.

I've been thinking about New Hampshire lately, as I always do during the winter. They've had a terrible time there with a huge ice storm that shut the state down for days on end, followed by several more storms. I have to confess, I often check the local TV station website there to see if my old school is getting yet another snow day. All those snow days in December and January have to be paid back in June, you know. Some years we worried that we would be going to school right up to July, and some years it seemed like we came pretty close. I enjoy contemplating that weather from here in the sunny, warm Southwest. 

When I think about New Hampshire, I can't help but feel nostalgic memories for our 200+ year old farmhouse there. I just received a comment from "Pam" on a post I wrote last June about the beehive oven in our "center chimney" colonial home. Pam is thinking about buying a center chimney colonial, built around 1800. The historical society in our town had provided brass plates during the 1976 Bicentennial celebration to indicate the ages of local antique colonial homes, and according to the plate mounted by the front door our house was built in 1770 by a Dr. Timothy Kelley.

Pam tells me that the house she wants to buy "needs everything." That old Kelley house, when we first saw it in 1987, "needed everything." The kitchen contained a fireplace, yes, but it also had a sort of hill in the middle of the floor. You'd trudge uphill for a bit, then you'd slide downhill for a bit. It had only a few odd cupboards, a stove with no countertops nearby, some single paned windows, and a view of the woods. The single bathroom was creepy and, according to the mortgage people at the bank, had rotted beams barely holding it up over the dirt-floored, snakey cellar. 

The front stairs wound up past graffiti-laden walls to bedrooms that were knee-deep in discarded clothes. My theory was that because the mother of the large family living there was herself rather large, she probably hadn't ventured upstairs for several years to remind her many children to pick up their clothes and that nice children should never write on the walls with lipstick. 

The back stairs went from the kitchen up to a warren of tiny rooms that led into each other. The walls in that part of the house had never been finished (a good thing when the tax man came around, we were assured) but were covered with written comments on various relationships these wild children had been having with various people. In addition to the tiny rooms, there were two large, square front bedrooms, one with a fireplace. Downstairs again were two square front rooms, both having fireplaces and one with a beehive oven (later discovered, but unknown to us when we first saw the house). 

It was dark when we first toured the house--it was February, and it was icy cold; the snow was piled high on both sides of the unpaved driveway, and it was at great risk to life and limb that my 10-year old son and I slid our hasty way back out to the car. Sitting there in the dark, teeth chattering from the cold and from the scary interior of that house, we waited for Beez to join us. I do remember that we were muttering things like, "oh my God," and "what a pile of trash," and "I couldn't wait to get out of there, what's taking him so long?" 

The driver's side door opened and Beez slid into the car seat in a gust of icy air. There was a long moment of silence and just breathing. And then my husband said, "Oh my God, I've got to have that house!" 


Judy said...

I can't wait to hear your reaction to that! I love old houses but they can really be a pain when it comes to actually living in one.

June Saville said...

That's what they call 'character'. It was probably a real battle to begin, but worth it?

Northanna said...

Don't you love it when your husband makes a decision like that, out of left field?! Goodness knows, my husband never ceases to surprise me with some of his comments.