Do you ever wonder about who owned your house before you—years ago, where it would be difficult to track down the deed? What did they eat for dinner? Where did they put the couch? Did they sleep in the front of back bedroom? WHAT did they do to create that big scar on the back bedroom floor—the one with the visible, shadow creating dent in the hardwood? Our house has been a rental for most of its life, first owned by the professor who specialized in camellias next door (which explains the forest of large camellias in both yards), then by a couple in Portland. But there are still traces of past occupants.
Someone trimmed the kitchen shelves a little bit, probably so a fridge would fit in. Bad move. I suspect they also trimmed a windowsill in the living room.
Someone worked on machinery in the old garage and left a huge beam in the rafters with the remains of a pulley on it, right where a car engine might be.
Someone left a Life magazine from the thirties in the attic.
Someone tucked black and white school photos of two middle school aged girls, wearing ponytails from 1973, in the basement rafters.
Someone left a small pot pipe by the back door.
Someone painted about half of the back hall pale lavender in the mid-1950s. It looks like they ran out of paint.
Someone planted a fig, yellow plum, and cherry tree in the yard and someone else planted two hazelnuts. Someone also had a small garden in the same spot as mine, and the mounds, like the graves of old veg beds, are still there.
Someone built rough, but sturdy storage shelves in the back hall, foot of the cellar stairs, and near the washing machine. Someone else put in a lovely large shelf table near the laundry area as well.
No one threw out the old doors that used to hang between the living room and kitchen, as well as the living room and linen closet.
No one messed with the pantry shelves, so they still have the old curves on two shelves. Someone put one shelf in the garage, but I found it.
No one changed out the glass door knobs or lost the key to the cozy room door.
No one replaced windows or doors, divided the rooms in weird ways, or messed with the essential structure in any way.
When we moved in, there was a dryer from the 1950s, an avocado green washing machine from the 1970s, and a huge old stove from the mid-1950s. Mark keeps the stove going by replacing the wiring.
When we first moved in, the past occupants of the house watched us carefully, to see how we would treat their home. We have been as respectful of the building as they were. After all, it will still be here, long after we have moved on. That’s the nature of well-built, well-loved houses.
Butter Almond Cookies: traditionally cut into heart and lip shapes
½ cup of sugar
½ pound of butter
½ cup of finely ground almonds
2 cups of flour
Cream butter and sugar together. Add almonds, nuts, and flour and mix. Roll out about ¼ inch thick and cut out shapes. Bake in 350 oven until golden.
This is easily expanded. The cookies freeze very well, so a larger batch means an exciting discovery some winter evening while you are rooting around from the parm. Ends for soup.