Memories have a way of taking you home
This is the way it is for me when I think of the home I grew up in, the home the family moved into when I was about 2 years old. I knew nothing else until I married and moved out 20-some years later.
It was an ordinary, six-room house in Stratford, unpretentious in an ordinary middle-class neighborhood. It was built about 1915. Today, it is hard to believe that the house that was relatively new when my parents purchased it is now approaching the century mark.
There are things about the house I took for granted, but today I remember them with fondness and nostalgia.
Let me take you on an imaginary tour.
Approaching the house, one of the first things that meet the eye would be the large oval, beveled-edged window in the front door. Inside, mother always kept it covered with a lace curtain held taut with rods at both top and bottom.
Upon entering the front hall there was an impressive banister, railing and a flight of steps with two landings to the second floor, all made of chestnut wood. On the first landing was a unique feature — a rare stained-glass window that faced west and the afternoon sun would enhance the brilliant colors.
Chestnut is so rare it is seldom, if ever, used in building today. There were also chestnut archways into both the living and dining rooms.
The living room was large and bright with four large windows, three on one side built in a slightly semi-circle formation, and one in the front overlooking the porch that ran the width of the house.
Best of all, there was a fireplace, not on the side of the house as was more common, but in the middle of the house so that the living room, dining rooms and kitchen were literally constructed around the fireplace.
I remember my mother saying that she always dreamed of a home with a fireplace, so much so that she said, if she could have her way, she would have the house built around it. Although the house was built a few years before my parents purchased it, how providential that her wish came true.
Inside the fireplace were andirons (iron supports to hold the wood) shaped in front in the form of owls that had marble-like eyes. They often fell out when subjected to the intense heat. The eyes would have to be glued back in place. I also remember the box of dust-like particles that, when tossed on the fire, would glow briefly in beautiful colors.
Moving on through the chestnut archway into the dining room, the distinction feature was a wooden railing. It was built around the walls of the room about two feet below the ceiling. On it attractive plates and vases were displayed. Mother called it a plate-rail, although I can’t find that word in the dictionary.
Dinner always was served in the dining room, and I have fond memories of gazing at the objects on the railing as I sat eating many a meal.
The outstanding feature is the kitchen was the wainscoting, wooden paneling built into the lower part of the outside wall. A large, black iron coal and gas stove dominated the room, to be replaced one day by an electric stove. In fact, it wasn’t long after the stove was installed that the 1938 hurricane made its most unwelcome arrival, which left us without electricity for about a week. I remember mother resorting to cooking some of our meals on a neighbor’s gas stove.
There were three bedrooms upstairs and a small bathroom with a claw-footed tub and a ridiculously little sink in one corner with separate hot and cold faucets. Those were the days when plumbing had not advanced to the convenience of drawing both waters at the same time.
In the hallway was an opening in the ceiling covered by a large piece of wood. When removed, the opening led to the attic where, in this bungalow-style dwelling, the ceiling was not even high enough to stand upright.
Mother continued to live in the home for more than a half century. After she passed away, the house was sold. For years I could not bring myself to even go down the street, it was just too painful to see a place where I could no longer rush inside and call it home.
Finally, one day I did return, and the owners welcomed me inside. Yet, to see someone else’s furnishings and belongings-— well, it was just not the same.
But I always have my memories.
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