When the old house was young


It was a hot afternoon and though my list was long I was slowing down, coiling the orange extension cord in the front yard, thinking about ice water and striking a line through “sweep out car” on my list.

She came out of the alley, wearing heeled sandals and a light blouse with capris and smiling as she cut across my yard. “Do you know the Smiths?” she asked me and “I was at a party there and, well, I used to live here and wow, those trees have grown!”

She faced the house, the childhood home she lived in 50 years ago. She told me how the siding wasn’t there before, just a painted cinder-block house; how the massive trees between us and the alley were then; who the neighbors were and how she knew them (“She was a Strangerson and my mother was friends with the Strangersons”).

We stood in the afternoon sun while she remembered and sweat drops formed on her hairline and my shirt clung to my back and still she remembered. Our house and the one next door are built on the same plan (I knew that), because the owner of the next-door house liked the layout but not the metal construction, so built a similar plan out of cinderblocks (I didn’t know that).

And when it became obvious that she was delaying her leave I asked if she wanted to go inside and her face lit up and would I mind?

We stepped into the artificial dusk of a home with every window covering pulled tight against the heat and she stepped across the threshold and commented on the floors, just loves them.

Turns out the carpet we pulled out when we moved in? Her father put it in 50 years ago. Neither of us can believe it went 50 years without anyone replacing it. The counter tops are the same and oh she remembers the fireplace and that ceiling fan is a nice addition.

Her father bought the house after her mother’s heart attack, looking for something without stairs; she and her sister shared one of the two bedrooms.

And finally she left, back to her party and I finished coiling and untangling the extension cord and gave up on the rest of my list.

And I thought of a cinderblock house built decades ago and rotting carpet that was once new and massive hedges grown thick and unruly with the years.

For a moment I got to see back when this old house of ours was young; and I wonder what other stories it holds between its walls?

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