Maybe it’s because my own years are flying by, but as I walk through Hill homes lately, I’m struck by an overwhelming sense of time — how much change time allows while providing endless consistency. I’m fascinated to think about all that has happened outside of a century-old house, but lately more so with the lives inside. How many people has time allowed to walk through your home? How many people were born on your kitchen floor? Or carried out on a 6-foot board? How much laughter? How many tears? How many people have walked through your home over the 100+ years it has likely stood?
If you live on Capitol Hill, chances are that your home has been through big times and big changes. One or two World Wars, wagon wheels, horse hooves, world travel, space travel, cyber travel — and yet your house hasn’t travelled an inch (in most cases). If you live west of 14th Street on Capitol Hill, there’s a chance your home was a stone’s throw to a slave-holding president. Same house, different time, new neighbor, African-American commander-in-chief. Now that’s change.
But what about the small things that have happened to people within your four walls, during their short or long stays, over so many decades, that have not changed, but just been done and handled differently, depending on the circumstances? Imagine how many meals have been served in your home. Do you romanticize hearty home-cooking, slow, all day, every day, or a more reality-based beans & bread? Maybe chicken once a week? I chuckle at the thought of how many children, over so many years, in outfits of the day, snuck undesirable dinners to the dog underneath the table. If your Capitol Hill home is old enough, one of very few, there were likely pigs running in the streets, cleaning from the curbs what we threw out. I wonder if the pigs liked some houses more than others. Was that a secret source of pride for Mom?
The holidays are a great time to imagine then and now in your own home. What did the people who lay in your bedroom and ate in your kitchen talk, yell and whisper about? Fret about? Celebrate about? Even care about?
Imagine how many loved ones have passed away in your home before the death process was out-sourced. There’s a good chance on Capitol Hill that your home pre-dates funeral parlors. Once dead, a mortician might take Grandpa to his shop for clean up and then return him so he could be laid in your home’s front parlor. Imagine how many children snuck down at night, daring one another to touch Grandpa’s cold hand.
Bathrooms? I can’t imagine it. Did someone in your house, in 1903, sit down to breakfast, bemoaning the frigid outhouse last night, cursing the day he put the chamber pot away? I don’t know how I’d have braved the bathroom at night, even if attached to the home’s most recent rear addition.
Imagine your family on a Friday night, packed into one room, with one book or one fiddle, trying to control the temperature. Imagine years later, still crammed in, being quiet as you tried to tune in the radio. Now that’s entertainment! How many boys became men in your house? Imagine when the first one came calling on the first daughter of the first father to ever live in your home. Entertaining as well.
Do you wonder what was the first gift ever given in your home? For a select few, it was the built-in corner cupboard you cherish so much. Bought by the first owner, from the builder, possibly for his wife and for a 50 buck up-charge, not cheap when you consider the house only cost about $4,000 to purchase. I wonder, Was she happy, or had she secretly hoped for the $65 fireplace mantel?
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of HillNow.com.