Happy Birthday To An Old House: A Story

southern gothic home

One hundred years isn’t all that long, is it? It’s amazing what an old house can endure over a century. Here’s a story from a houses’ point of view.


I turned 100 years old today.

In the grand scheme of things, that’s no so long, is it? After all, there are many things in this old world that are much older than me. I remember when I was just a little thing, all fresh and new, I would look at that massive house down the street and wonder how old it was. Guess what? It’s still standing. Even back then, 100 years ago, it was old. Now it’s prettier than ever.

Let me tell you, friend: 100 years isn’t all that long.

It feels like just yesterday that little Thomas was running through the back door, hollering for his Momma while he left muddy prints all over that fine parquet floor in the back. That wasn’t long after I came to the neighborhood.

That boy was something else, I swear. He could tear apart his room faster than his Momma could yell at him to clean it up. There wasn’t much in there back then, of course, because times were hard for everybody, especially everybody here on this old ridge. But what he did have, Lord have mercy, he would toss every which way.

The Harland family

Then there was the Harland family. Oh, my, what a beautiful family they were! They came along about the time Tommy got called up to the war. They had two little girls, pretty as the sunflowers in the garden.

Then there came along the little boy, and he was somehow even cuter, though I still marvel that such a thing was even possible. They stuck around for a very long time, and even after the kids moved out, they came back from time to time to care for their parents. They set up a nice room right there, in the sunny side, where they could see out the big glass doors that their Momma loved so much.

vintage family photographs

A period of quiet

After they were gone, things were quiet for a while. So quiet, in fact, that things began to fall apart. A little thing here, a little thing there. Nothing major at first, but when you added it up, things started to look rather dire.

A few of the fine details on the porch broke off in that summer storm, remember that big one that came through and toppled the church steeple? Then some no-good kids took a can of spray paint to the clapboard. Let me tell you, that was an insult! Then there were those carpenter ants that seemed to come out of nowhere and swarm everything that wasn’t theirs.

It was a very long ten years, let me tell you.

All business

The next man was all business. He showed up in a suit and offered cash money, right there by the bannister that was starting to pull away from the plaster. The next day he came back in an old t-shirt and jeans, with a heavy toolbox that kicked up dust when he dropped it on the floor, and I knew he would make things right again.

And he did…mostly. That old plaster went to the green dumpster out back, and if I were ever going to shed a tear, it would have happened then. But he sanded the hardwood floors with such loving care that I had to forgive him. He replaced those old clanging pipes with new ones, and thank goodness for it. He took care with the windows, and broke only one of them, which I suppose was alright. Glass breaks. Families move on. It happens.

Coming and going

Then for a while there were several people coming through, one after the other, none of them staying very long. They would move their things in, get settled down, then something would happen and they would pack all their things up again.

Sometimes I barely learned their names. See that spot where the sidewalk is cracked just a little? That’s from one of the many moving trucks that came through during those days. It was a whirlwind, let me tell you.

Now things seem to be looking up again.

Today a sweet young couple came looking. They ran their hands along the bannister and asked questions about the lights. They sat in the kitchen and talked for a long time, and wondered how many kids they would have. They stood on the porch in silence and took deep breaths. I was proud to see that the trees were flooded with green, and the flower beds were blooming something fierce. It made me so happy when they came back inside with big smiles and said those magic words: “We’ll take it.”

They didn’t know that I turned 100 years old today. Of course, they knew that the date was close, because the realtor told them so. But they didn’t know the hour when the last board went up — the minute the old man, a century ago, put his hammer down and smiled as he looked around, proud of what he had made.

They didn’t know, but they did give me the most excellent birthday gift today.

I think I’m going to love being their house.

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