The House My Memories Built.

28 Jan

My cousin Jenni is a photograph terrorist and has been uploading pictures from our formative years. Her reasons are simple enough – a deep rooted desire to humiliate her family members all the while evoking nostalgic yappery – but after seeing one picture with me in a pink knit skirt suit with huge swans all over it . . . well? Let’s just say I could go on a rant about the awesometastic misery that was 80’s fashion. Instead, though, I think I’m gonna ramble on about something else, namely the backgrounds on the pictures and the house I grew up in.

If someone has a quasi-decent childhood, I’m pretty sure where they went from toddler to child to teenager has significant emotional meaning, especially if it happens to be the same house. Barring you lived someplace weird, of course:

"Oh no, someone shit sherbet at us again!"

I lived in the same house from the ages of eight to about seventeen. I may romanticize this house some? But holy shit was it awesome. Like, I had the coolest-house-of-all-my-friends awesome. It was built in the 1700’s – maybe earlier actually (my mother might pipe in to give an actual date). It was an old farm, so we had cornfields all around us going back for acres and acres. There were hideaway crawl spaces throughout the house in case of Indian attack.

I was safe thanks to my secret tunnels!

A few of the other amenities of Casa de Embryo Hillary:

* A staircase that went nowhere. Yeah, like the Winchester House.
* A dirt floored cellar that was probably where someone hid bodies, because there is no other purpose for a place that god damned terrifying. Black and smelly with spiders the size of your head and . . . ugh.
* A huge barn that had become a garage over time. The best part? The BATS IN THE BELFRY. Well, where a belfry ought to be if we had a belfry. You get the point. Swarms of bats would soar out of the barn’s upper double doors during the summer, and we’d sit around and watch them eat mosquitoes.
* Ghosts. (We’ll come back to this one)
* The original outhouse in the back. Yes we had indoor plumbing, but no one bothered to knock the outhouse down for some inane reason. They were nice enough to board over the poop hole in the bench, though.
* Servants quarters! Still standing! And apparently a death trap as my mom never let me play in there.
* Two streams to either side of the house that housed snapping turtles. Yeah, funny story about my mother in a three piece suit and heels trying to shovel a snapping turtle into a Rubber Maid trash bin one morning because the stupid turtle got lazy/distracted moving from one stream to the other and was taking up residence in the driveway behind the cars.
* A walk in pantry.
* A real old fashioned claw and ball tub. It was so deep you could drown people in it if you wanted to. Mind you, we had no shower – that was far too advanced – but we did have the best bathtub ever.
* An enormous weeping willow tree dead center of the back yard.
* The totally random, abandoned urns of people we didn’t know in the attic. See: Ghosts.

Okay so you may not believe in ghosts. I get it, and I understand it. Ghosts don’t make any sense. I mean, the first thing everyone thinks of is this:

But there were a few things that happened at that old place that were downright weird, and all of it we attested to the unclaimed dead people urns you can’t exactly throw away because that just seems rude, and Mrs. Keeler. Mrs. Keeler owned that house before we moved in, and she loved it. She loved it so much, in fact, that before she died she had someone make an audio tape of her speaking. Weird, yes, but it gets better. She basically said when she passed over she planned on returning to the house because she loved it, and anyone living there shouldn’t worry if they hear funny things going bump in the night. It’d just be her, she’d come home, and she means no harm.

I always thought the story was goofy and a little unnerving, but otherwise ignorable. Then one day we went to the cemetery up on the hill (West Bridgewater was a small town, there weren’t a lot of cemeteries and everyone was buried in pretty much one of two places). Mrs. Keeler’s son in law had died – a friend of my grandmother – and he was buried in the family plot right next to Mrs. Keeler. Her epitaph?

“Goodbye. For now.”

CREEPY OLD LADY MEANT CREEPY OLD LADY BUSINESS.

The dogs used to stand at the foot of the stairs at night, growling up at nothing. Mind you, the family would all be downstairs so who knows what they thought they saw. The first night my mom moved in, she took the doorbell off of the wall and removed the battery. Old doorbells were eyesores back in the day, really clunky with these huge cylinder things attached. She put both parts – doorbell and battery – on a shelf in the pantry, with nothing connected. The first night she slept in the house, she swears the doorbell started chiming in the middle of the night. She went downstairs to check on it and . . . yeah, doorbell still lacked the battery. My uncle, who lived in the house before us, said that sometimes there looked like a lantern light swinging back and forth at the edge of the corn fields. He’d stare out at it on summer nights. Maybe it was the twelve pack of beer, maybe it was a real ghost, who knows.

Now, believe or not, I don’t really care. Because I am a writer of all things spooky and crazy, I am choosing to suppress my logic and say IT’S ALL TRUE. I BELIEVE ALL THE THINGS.

"A fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." - Winston Churchill

We moved out of the old farm house when I was seventeen and my mother decided she wanted nice things like predictable hot water. Whatever, Mom! Who needed electricity all the time and heat in the winter! (I kid, please put the beating stick down) Sadly, a couple years later, there was a fire and the awesomest house to grow up in burned to the ground. I was devastated, actually crying the first time I drove by it that something that really did help shape the person I am today was gone. When I look at it now, all paved over (and making me channel Joni Mitchell), I still go into a funk because really, what kid wouldn’t want to live in a place so cool?

I think in retrospect I had it pretty good at the old farm. I strive to one day be the owner of my own creepy house, complete with attic urns, bats, and a staircase going nowhere. It’s a good goal, I think.

Advertisements

3 Responses to “The House My Memories Built.”

  1. Bika January 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

    I want a haunted house. I don’t believe in ghosts, but it would be rad anyway!

    If there really were any ghosts there, they could spend all their time trying to convince me otherwise.

  2. Mom January 28, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Willowbrook Farm was built in 1790, and everything Hillary says is true. Hearing Mrs. Keeler’s voice on that tape after coming home from her funeral will never leave me.

  3. Katie (Cousin) June 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm #

    Greatest house ever! I miss it so. It housed such history and memories not just for our family but generations who went before. It’s a shame that it no longer stands in all of it’s Old New England grandeur. I only lived there for the first three years of my life but visiting you guys for family get-togethers and holidays are some of my fondest memories. RIP Willowbrook…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: