Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Our Old House




The painting shown above will not be found hanging on the wall of any museum or gallery.  Instead, it has hung proudly on our living room wall for nearly twenty-seven years.  It was a gift given to me by my lovely wife to commemorate our first anniversary.  After all these years, it continues to be among our most cherished possessions.

I still remember unwrapping it and marveling at how the artist had captured the essence of our humble home.  We also found it interesting that the homes of neighbors’ she included belonged to people with whom we were well aquatinted.  Each one of those individuals was special to us in some way so the story begins.

The white house directly to the right was once owned by Gary and Jan.  It had been vacant for at least three years so it came as a surprise when they pulled into the driveway one winter day.  To say that they were noisy would be an understatement.  With two vehicles, three dogs, two cats, and two teenagers, I feared that we would have little in common.  Over the years, they became the closest members of our neighborhood family.  I spent many a summer evening sitting on Gary and Jan’s front porch visiting while drinking coffee.  Sadly, Jan died from cancer way before her time leaving behind a big hole in the neighborhood.  Since then, summer evenings have never been quite the same.

The red townhouses direct above Gary and Jan’s were owned by Ruth and Leona, both of whom were longtime residents of Astoria.  We first met Ruth while visiting the Methodist church; she was a retired nurse and never without a smile or a word of encouragement.  Leona was just the opposite; the word curmudgeon would best describe her personality.  I will never forget the day she announced that she would no longer walk by our house because she didn’t like the color of green we had recently painted it.  I just smiled and told her okay!

The pale green house behind and to the left of our house was owned by a man named Frank.  He was a man of few words but when he did speak it was always something good.  His yard and garden were among the best kept in the neighborhood.  Frank was also the first to decorate his house for Christmas; try as I might, I never was able to get our Christmas lights hung before first.

The big brown house directly behind Frank’s was once owned by Sylvia T.  Sylvia could best be described as a senior member of the “flower power generation”.  She played a vital role in the formation of our neighborhood association. She was also a hoot to be around and I would often stop by her bookstore just to visit.

The big green house behind Silvia’s was owned by a charming senior citizen named Virginia who also a long time resident of Astoria.  Virginia was a very sweet lady who could best be described as a talker.  Anytime I saw her walking down the sidewalk, I knew that she would have my ear for at least fifteen minutes.  Most of what I know of local history I learned from Virginia.  When the winter rains begin in late October, I have little reason to be working in the yard so it was not unusual to not see Virginia for months.  One summer day it occurred to me that I should have seen her by now and remarked the same to her neighbor.  Sadly I learned that she had died quietly during the winter, apparently her family didn’t hold a memorial service to honor her life. 

Except for Sylvia and Gary, all of the others passed away years ago and their former residences have been bought and sold at least twice.  Apparently long term home ownership is a thing of the past.  Sylvia left town many years ago to be closer to her family and we lost touch.  Gary retired last year and has moved to western Washington to live closer to his new wife’s family.  As I write this post, Gary’s former house finally sold after being empty for nearly two years.  I can’t wait to become acquainted with our newest neighbors.



monstev said...

Wonderful story and thanks for sharing. My questions is, "Who's the artist?"

Steve Skinner said...

Thanks Monte. The artist is a local lady named Diane Beaston.

Earl said...

Sorry for arriving so late to this wonderful post, Steve. I love both the painting and the story. I think you're right, home ownership doesn't mean the same as it use to...and probably never will again.

My Mom once told me that living to be old wasn't all it was cracked up to be because everyone you grew up with and know dies...sad but true.

Steve Skinner said...

Thanks Earl, it is one of life's truism.