January 21, 2013


With all of the foreclosures lately, it seems logical that properties are often being exchanged with banks and institutions rather than people. While that whole situation is very sad, as a ‘nostalgia junky’ I think that it is especially tragic because such transactions pretty much erase the personal history of the home’s previous owners. There is no ceremonial “passing of the keys” or a handshake between one owner with the next; it’s just a series of signatures validated by a notary.

So when a ‘nostalgia junkie’ and his Australian Shepherd find themselves living inside the freshly painted walls of an older house that once was home to others, it’s difficult for them not to think about all of the unknown faces and stories that those walls had witnessed over the decades.

And then there are the other, more practical/less romantic questions that  come through the pragmatic applications of living within the space: “that door seems to be the wrong size”, and “WHO DECIDED TO PUT A SWIMMING POOL  DIRECTLY UNDERNEATH A 100-YEAR OLD OAK TREE?”.

But a few weeks ago while Christmas shopping in Dallas, I purchased something with a personal check, something that I never, ever do (people who bottleneck the checkout line by writing personal checks torture my soul).

Anyway, to complete this transaction, I QUICKLY wrote out and handed the check across the counter to a very personable lady who took the check and seemed to take an extremely long look at it.

 I became a little self conscious and worried . Did I look shifty?

The woman looked up at me and said “Lanshire Drive?” I nodded and she said, “YOU live in my house”.

It turns out that I was standing across the counter from Martha – the owner of my house from 1969 to 1993 (the house was built in 1958).

Once I had gotten over the incredible coincidence of the situation, I tried to think quickly of all of the questions that I wanted to ask. First and foremost: “Did YOU install that swimming  pool under that tree?”, to which she smiled and replied “yes”, and continued to provide all kinds of secret details about the work she’d done to the house over 30 years ago – turns out that the magnolia tree in my front yard had been a gift from her aunt.

 Martha and I exchanged email addresses and promised to keep in touch. She finally came over yesterday afternoon to walk through the house that she once called home. She showed me where pocket doors used to be, and where hardwood had replaced brickwork. The most revealing story was about my front door, which is very different from all of the others on the block — turns out that it’s a salvaged antique that she had customized for the house.

I have always enjoyed the many mysterious quirks of my old house. Now we have some stories to help illustrate the quirks in this house, and a new friend.

Thank you Martha!

Howard & Huck


2 Responses to “Homecoming”

  1. Martha had said when I met her that she regrets selling it and has driven by many times just to check on the house. I felt bad because she had really enjoyed the pool – and as usual under the stewardship of its current owner, it had leaves in it (from THAT tree).

  2. Lydia Avina-Drayer Says:

    Wow, you lived the real life version of “The House That Built Me”. It must be a comfort to her that you’ve taken good care of the home. Imagine the courage it took to walk back in there, not knowing if she’d find the place hurting.

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