Saturday, June 16, 2007

History Writ Small

I’ve been caught up in my family history the last few days. It never fails to leave me emotional. Seeing census records noted in tight cursive script, with names and ages of my ancestors, followed by how much they paid for rent, yea or nay to could they read and write English and where their parents were born, leaves me hungry for more than just those terse, yet illuminating, facts and figures. I’ve written about my gratitude, the debt I owe to all those who came and went before me. It’s something I have always felt.

Living in this old farmhouse, though not of my family, does nothing to diminish the strength of those feelings. All I have to do is reach for a garden tool hanging in the old three-holer outhouse at the back of the barn and I am humbled. The claw foot tub in our only bathroom, was taken up right after we bought this house so Peter,a wonderful craftsman, could strip, sand and refinish all of the floors. Before it was laid back down, we had the opportunity to see the underside of the tub. On it was a manufacturing date from the 1920’s. The bathroom was and still is, big enough to throw a party in. It used to be a bedroom. How elegant-swellegant and exciting it must have been the day the fixtures were brought in and a sink, a tub and an indoor flush toilet were installed. No more trips out of the house to the outhouse - in sickness or in health - at any hour, in any weather. We still use those same fixtures. Eight decades later they still do everything we need them to do.

I can’t help but wonder what my relatives must have felt every time they achieved another tiny luxury or some great leap forward in invention or prosperity. I can’t imagine they ever took them for granted.

This photo was taken standing in the doorway to our outhouse, the day the roof and floors were removed. That was about nine years ago when John and Roger, two brilliant carpenters, were rehabilitating our barn. A new floor and a new roof have left it stable and able to stand ready, just in case...


purpleronnie said...

It is so true, Lee. Things change so rapidly nowadays that we don't actually appreciate the step from old to new as they did in those times. Thanks for the reminder to appreciate all we have and all the comfort we take for granted.

Pink Granite said...

Thanks Ronnie-
Well said! On a hot summer day, when I take refuge in our air conditioned bedroom, I know I was born lucky, and in the right year!
- Lee

Roo said...

Hmmm a big bathroom with a tub... luxury

Tonya said...

love this - great post.