Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Upstairs Lady

Note: This is the final post of the series, The House on High Street; Living in an Antique Colonial House. All the posts in the series are indexed here.

While we lived in our old house our town started having an annual Old Home Day--a time when current and former residents of the town could get together and picnic and play games. The parade went right down High Street in front of our house, so we always had an excellent view. 

During one of those first years a tour of the old homes in the town was offered, narrated by a man who had lived there all his life. I loved his stories--he told of two sisters, living at a crossroad in two houses right across from each other. Somehow there was a family argument and the women vowed never to speak again. They lived in those houses for the rest of their lives with never a word spoken between them. 

I was especially delighted when our little tour bus stopped in front of our house. The tour guide told of a woman living in the house during the 19th century who, for health reasons or for some more esoteric motivation, never came downstairs. She simply lived upstairs for all of her life [just as Mrs. B lived only downstairs much later], which probably made things quite difficult for her family.   She kept her friends, however, and they would come to visit her in the summer and picnic on the front lawn, sending delicacies up to her via a basket and rope as she sat in a chair by the window, joining in on the conversation. 

I like to picture her in what became, well over a century later, my bedroom. It had a sweet little white fireplace with a small crane just the size for a tea kettle. The floor was painted a lovely apple green that made me feel cheerful every time I looked at it, and the walls were papered with a delicate floral design. There were three windows that let in lots of light through the old wavy glass--two looking out onto the High Street, and one facing out over the garden and our sledding hill. 


Zabetha said...

I just read your profile, I like the "slow travelling" idea. I think I do the same, having lived in several different parts of the country over the past few decades.

Sylvia K said...

I'm really falling in love with that house! Do look forward to reading more about it each day. What a fun place to live -- in spite of some of the "oddities"!

Judy said...

I look forward to your posts about this house, too. How strange that she never came down. I wonder if someone carried food up there everyday and took care of her needs. I guess they had to if she never came downstairs.

clairz said...

I'm really looking forward to your comments each day! Anne, welcome to the blog. Sylvia, it was such an odd place, we never lacked for stories.

And Judy, it was either the time or the place, but it seems to have been an era for some pretty self-indulgent gestures--the sisters who decided never to speak again for their entire lives, and the "upstairs lady."

New England is full of such stories. Another one that you will often hear is one where a house is left to siblings in a will, they don't get along, and so they put up interior walls that effectively divide the house in half--then they live under the same roof without speaking for their whole lives.

Rebecca Zarges-Joy said...

Mom- I always did love this story when you used to tell it to me. I never did tell any of you this but when I was a teenager and going through that very rough period I used to believe that something in that house somehow "entered" my body and took posession of it. Lol. How weird is that? I guess it was the only way I could rationalize what was going on with me at that time but really? Does that sound rational to you? I sure did have quite the imagination back then! I also remember how I used to read a lot (we were not a tv watching family. In a house like that we had far better things to do then watch tv!) And I would then pretend to be the main character of the book I had just read. This was very easy to do because at the time, I was into" olden day" books. So one day I would be doing the dishes and I'd be an african- american slave and on another day, I would be collecting eggs and I would pretend I was a farm girl from the 1800's and yet another day,while getting dressed, I would pretend I was a beautiful(maiden? Is that the correct word)getting dressed in my hoop skirt w/ a petticoat and all waiting for the horse and buggy to arrive to take me to the Grand Ball where only the most beautiful girls and handsome boys were invited! Lol :) that house was great for the imagination and there was never a dull moment! There was no such thing as being bored and I miss it so much!!!!!

clairz said...

Becca, I love this, and all your comments on this series. It's so much fun for me to read about your memories and to remember things, but from your point of view. You are such a great writer, it would be very cool if you were to do something with that amazing talent of yours!