There’s something about an old house. My house, the Jeremiah Brown house, was built in 1853. Jeremiah, the builder and first owner, was half-brother to the famous, or infamous, abolitionist John Brown. The Browns grew up here in Hudson. Guns used by John at Harper’s Ferry were stored in the original barn. Ah history!
The house sits on a couple of acres. Its lawn is marked with majestic old trees. I think Treelawn might be a very nice name for the property.
There’s a barn here, but these days no chickens or cows occupy it. Now the barn serves as a 3-car garage. There’s also an outbuilding. The outbuilding is a sort of detached family room, rather impractical by modern standards, but oh so romantic. When I light a fire in its wood-burning fireplace and look out its five windows at nature I feel like I’m far, far away, perhaps in the mountains of Massachusetts or New Hampshire. A little imagination goes a long way without actually going a long way away.
I’m not quite sure why I love old houses as I do. Why do any of us love anything? But perhaps the fact that both sets of my European grandparents lived in old houses might have something to do with it. Experiencing love in such places at an early age might have left its mark.
Though my husband and I are constantly making efforts to fix up our old house, I had very tender feelings for the place the very first time I saw it, even in its dilapidated condition. Most people would’ve taken one look and run! Most people did just that! But I often feel more affection for old houses before they’ve been refurbished. Houses seem to look older when left alone for years, more the product of an earlier age, more romantic. If a house is crying for care I feel a sympathy for it much as I would feel sympathy and tenderness for a lost or forlorn puppy dog. I guess you have to be an old house lover to understand. If you are such a person I’d like to share one of my favorite poems with you. Why? You know. Sharing doubles the joy.
It’s called “The House with Nobody in It” by Joyce Kilmer. Enjoy!
The House with Nobody in It
Whenever I walk to Suffern along the Erie track
I go by a poor old farmhouse with its shingles broken and black.
I suppose I’ve past it a hundred times, but I always stop for a minute
And look at the house, the tragic house, the house with nobody in it.
I never have seen a haunted house, but I hear there are such things;
That they hold the talk of spirits, their mirth and sorrowings.
I know this house isn’t haunted, and I wish it were, I do;
For it wouldn’t be so lonely if it had a ghost or two.
This house on the road to Suffren needs a dozen panes of glass.
And somebody ought to weed the walk and take a scythe to the grass.
It needs new paint and shingles, and the vines should be trimmed and tied;
But what it needs the most of all are some people living inside.
If I had a lot of money and all my debts were paid
I’d put a gang of men to work with brush and saw and spade.
I’d buy that place and fix it up the way it used to be
And I’d find some people who wanted a home and give it to them for free.
Now, a new house standing empty, with staring window and door,
Looks idle, perhaps, and foolish, like a hat on its block in a store,
But there’s nothing mournful about it; it cannot be sad and lone
For the lack of something within it that it has never known.
But a house that has done what a house should do, a house that has sheltered life,
That has put its loving wooden arms around a man and his wife,
A house that has sheltered a baby’s laugh and held up his stumbling feet,
Is the saddest sight, when it’s left alone, that ever your eyes could meet.
So whenever I go to Suffren along the Erie track
I never go by the empty house without stopping and looking back,
Yet it hurts me to look at the crumbling roof and the shutters falling apart,
For I can’t help thinking the poor old house is a house with a broken heart.