Well, probably haunted. Definitely full of history.
My significant other has a family reunion once a year. The family reunion, as I learned on the way there, is always held in the same house.
Never mind that no one lives in this house anymore — every inch of that ground is soaked in heritage and history. I don’t know what happens with the house most of the year. Is it vacant and then cleaned just before this affair? That’s just one of the many questions I walked away with.
I think saying it’s a haunted house (which I do stand by as a possibility) has a negative connotation. I don’t mean to knock the house. Next time I read the Narnia books, I’ll be picturing this house as the manor. Immediately after hugging me, my partner’s siblings whisked me away for a tour.
I think it was the highlight of my entire week.
You have to understand, this isn’t the house their father grew up in. This is the house their grandmother grew up in, though she had her own place as an adult.
This was their great-grandmother’s house.
I’ve always grown up with a large extended family. Many people at the reunion said I was brave for coming by to meet them all. To me, this simply looked like Christmas, only we could fit a little better since it was August and we could be comfortable outside. I’m not a stranger to learning about your ancestry.
It amazes me though, that we could still visit their great-grandmother’s house. At one point I remarked that it should be a museum, and I still think it should. Maybe if it was, it’d be a little better kept. Wallpaper was crinkling on the walls, and the entire living room had a distinct tilt. Still, the stairs were solid, the furniture intact, and a few people were planning to sleep there overnight.
The whole experience instantly transported me back to childhood. There was a magic to seeing my grandparent’s house, particularly on my father’s side. We didn’t see them as often as my mother’s family, and I remember distinctly the time when I was seven and I realized that there was an upstairs for the first time. It was a connected home, with two separate halves that they happened to own both of, and it wasn’t until I was closer to ten that I found my way into the other half. It was like a world, unfolding.
Exploring this house was like that again. My partner’s siblings aren’t young — they’re in high school and college, and I’m a grown adult. Yet all three of us stayed entertained for a full hour, wandering the two and a half levels of this abandoned home. First I got a tour of the paintings in the staircase, mostly portraits with intense, wary eyes. Then we saw the bedrooms, especially one with a bed whose headboard reached the ceiling and was decorated with roses that were arranged suspiciously like a face. Next came the bedroom with closest you had to bend in half to peer into, and then another with a shower curtain splitting the room into halves.
But the real fun began in the fourth bedroom. The one they’d discovered earlier that day, with a closet that was real a whole other room.
Great speculation took place about the use of this room. There was only one door to it, which was on the other side of the room than the hallway. Getting into the room involved a tiny hallway of its own — one about five feet long, which had no floor. Instead, there was a door laid out like a bridge, covering space that dropped straight to the floor below. Once across the bridge, you were in the mystery room.
The mystery room appeared to be mostly storage, at least in the present. There were items piled all around the edges, a typewriter catching my attention in one. On the wall hung what I optimistically assume was farm equipment — a saw, pitchfork, and literal scythe. All were rusty with age, yet we earnestly believed we’d found the most interesting discovery of the day. The displays were, after all, fairly intimidating, particularly after the precarious entry into our discovery.
Then we noticed there was a cellar.
The door was hidden, under the stairs. Like the mysterious room upstairs, the only entrance was guarded by a door that locked on the outside. Why I found that notable, I don’t know, but it felt important as the door swung open on a room that could have contained endless possibilities.
At first, all we saw was a dingy, cobwebbed, wooden staircase. At the bottom was dirt — reddish clay compacted to serve as floor. I mention the staircase, because in retrospect, it was surprisingly well made for a cellar that was clearly never meant to be there. A shovel still leaned against one side of the cellar, obvious in the about 300 square foot space. The walls curved, not making flat, clean lines.
I have every reason to believe this cellar was dug by hand, with that shovel.
The only contents of the room was a mound of untouched dirt. What was dug out walked around it in a U-shape. The three sides of the center piece were carved in tiers, about three rows on it. Each row was lined with cans that time had truly forgotten. While they clearly had been put together as “preserves”, they no longer deserved the name.
Now, I love my significant other. When they found us though, their first question was “what are you doing?” Obviously, we were uncovering mysteries. I’m not above calling it an archeological dig, particularly when when I’ve just risked life and limb climbing across strategically placed doors and inhaling the dust from what were now in essence, mason jars of mold.
And I do see his point. After that, we spent time chatting, making introductions and looking at photo albums. Plenty of stories were told that day. But I preferred the stories of the house. They were visceral. I was in the rooms they spoke of, admiring furniture that must have been assembled in the room, due to the size. I opened every door I could find, read the titles of the books on the nightstand. If the house had been occupied, what we did would have been considered nosy. Perhaps it was for the best we got to explore uninhabited space. It felt like a jungle gym for adults, one last glimpse of discovery and adventure.
And while we didn’t mean to pry, I feel like I got a much better sense of where my partner comes from than I could have at home.