This living hand

One of the benefits of living in a house that has been lived in by several generations of your family is that there are ghosts lurking around just about every corner.

What, you don’t count that as a benefit?

I’m not talking about those unsettling moments when my cat wakes up from a dead sleep and glares meaningfully into the dark corner behind the door. That’s a topic for another day, I think.

No, I’m referring instead to all those little intentional marks and remnants that previous occupants have left behind, things that you sort of glaze over seeing for months and years on end, and then something happens to make you notice them again, and you remember that you’re not the only one to have stood at this kitchen sink, or to crouch at the edge of this perennial bed, or to lie in bed at night and wonder about the future and all it might hold.

My grandfather and grandmother lived in this house once, along with their three children. And if you’ve ever seen my tiny house, you will share my astonishment that a family of five ever lived amicably under this one small roof. But Grandpa was off-Cape working most of the week in the boatyard, and my father and his brother and sister were all in their teens by the time they moved in here, so they were usually out doing outside teenagey things, one imagines.

You can make a tiny house work. Having a life outside these four walls really helps, though.

Not that I would know anything about that.

My grandmother planted the daffodils that bloom every spring under my home office window. My home office, of course, used to be her bedroom. I take pictures of Ella’s daffodils almost every year.

Here they are in 2006.

Ella's daffodils

She also planted the rhododendron at the front of the house, which is massive now and needs a trim. It blooms bright and pink early each spring, and is probably the gaudiest thing in my yard. I love it.

Ella's Rhododendrons
You have to look inside the house for traces of its other occupants. The big comfy chair I remember my grandfather always sitting in (complete with candy tucked into pockets for grandchildren to scamper up and find) is long gone, of course, as is my grandmother’s writing desk that once sat by the door.

But just beneath the front window, if you know where to look, there’s a litte bit of graffiti that has always charmed the pants right off me.

To get it, you might have to understand that my aunt’s initials were, before she married, “A.M.”

AM (my house)
Do you suppose she was interrupted before she could put in her beloved’s initials and carve a delicate little heart around them? Or was it more of an open-ended question?

And then there’s this one, which graces the back of the door to the front bedroom, currently known as the Home Office.

Smiley (my house)

I mean, right?

How can you not love this adorable little house?

It will perhaps not come as a surprise to you to learn that I have a bit of a soft spot for old graffiti like this. As if to really prove my point, I kind of went a little nuts on the topic in my post today at Wonders & Marvels, documenting all of the crazy awesome initials and symbols and seals that are littered all over The Great Bed of Ware.

What, you don’t know about The Great Bed of Ware? That Elizabethan love nest of giants, that vast expanse of slumber terrain, that tourist attraction with bedposts?

Well now. I suggest you just prance right on over and check it out. It’s called The Secret History of The Great Bed of Ware, and it’s more of my usual whackadoo historical claptrap.

But hey, you might like it anyway. What do I know?


2 Thoughts.

  1. Enjoyed this Beth! I also live in an old family home — I’m the 5th generation to live here and its the only reason I moved to Mobile. I love knowing other family members before have wandered the halls and held debates and read and ate and slept. My grandfather was a bit of a horticulturalist and so in the side yard is a wonderful grove of camellias he experimented with. They’re massive trees now. I haven’t found any graffiti, though, but apparently we do have ghosts. I should do a post about this house too :)

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