Sunday, March 8, 2009

Belated Birthday Greetings -- jcarolek

Yesterday we took a drive. The cold weather had finally surrendered to the promise of spring and exploration seemed inviting once again. I'd located some local properties that looked charming but forgotten and we set out to explore.

Our first stop was an old house, advertised as "needs TLC," which we both agreed was a gross understatement of reality. The house was built in 1890 and probably once had significant land associated with it. Today it stands on a little over an acre and the overgrowth is slowly reclaiming the structure, growing up through the cement steps at the back door and over the front porch entry. We parked the car, grabbed the camera, and set about the exploration.

Though the back door was unlocked, the warped flooring inside prevented its opening, so we walked around front, onto the front porch and tried the front door. It too was unlocked and we entered the house -- we were clearly not the first to do so. Inside we found an old console record player and an organ in what must have once been the living room. Sheet music was spilled on the floor. The old heater was pulled from the wall, hanging precariously.

In the back room, was a chifferobe with drawers open and linens half in and half out. The scalloped embroidery on one of the pillow cases was of the era when I was a child... I haven't seen those in years. And in the closet side of this piece of furniture, hung the black skirt and white, wide sleeved top of a church organist.

Up the well worn pine staircase we went and found the three bedrooms. The first I looked at was painted a bright orangery red, and sported an old bed and bureau. The second room was more subdued, painted blue, again with an old bed, a once-upon-a-time easy chair, an old sewing basket, and an end table with a lamp. There I found several pages from a small Bible, torn from their binding. Clearly someone had been sick here and was, probably, dying... the words from the scriptures, words of faith in God's healing power, were held close. On the chair were a couple of photos, a calendar from 1948, a letter or two, and some birthday cards addressed to Hattie. I was struck by the fact that every one of the birthday cards was wishing belated greetings for a happy birthday... "sorry, I'm late, hope it was great." The photos of the large family captured, I'm sure, Hattie with the senders of these belated greetings... and they all looked very happy... a comfortable, close family.

The third bedroom was painted hot pink, perhaps the hottest pink I've ever seen on interior walls. This room held two twin beds and a bureau, atop which was an ancient alligator skinned medical bag. Medical bills, bank deposit receipts, and store receipts made it clear this room had last been inhabited by a man, in all likelihood, Hattie's son. There on the bare bed springs of one of the twin beds lay a black fuzzy hat with a whitish plume... and my friend pointed at it and said, "this must be why they called her 'Hattie'." I chuckled at the thought and we went to explore the attic.

There were no stairs to the attic, but an old hamper stood just below the square opening, clearly positioned there by the last explorers. We didn't actually go up in the attic, but rather stood on the hamper and looked in at the "better pieces of furniture" that were being housed there. Again, others had obviously been up there, rummaging through what was left behind when Hattie and her caretaker no longer called this place home.

The house was in a very bad state of repair, the roof sagging and the mold choking us as we explored, but once, perhaps a long time ago, it was a house filled with family, friends, music and laughter. It was sad to see the house as it is today... no more Hattie to love it. No more deliveries of belated birthday greetings. No more family posing for the camera. And yet, I had a good feeling about that house. Something just felt like it had been the place of comfort and happiness to Hattie.

I don't imagine anyone will buy that property and restore it back to the Hattie Hay Days. Rather, if someone buys it, they will likely tear down the already faltering structure. Up will go a fancy new, modern structure that will support the modern lifestyle. And gone will be the photos, letters, and cards that attest to the happiness of the one-time inhabitants of that old house. But I will remember. I saw. I know. Hattie was once there.

I'm glad we went exploring yesterday.

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