The Old West Side homes tour has been stirring up a few things at our house. For one, we’ve had good motivation to complete a bunch of “to dos” that have been neglected. This includes recovering the chair that I’ve been hiding underneath a hideous plaid blanket for the past few years. And fixing the chipping wall near the shower….mundane things, but nice.
The best result from the tour was getting us back in touch with the home’s former occupants and learning more about the home’s history. The house was built in 1912. Before we purchased the place in 2000, the home had been in one family since 1917. The tour historian tracked down Kathy, whose grandfather owned the house, and she, her father, and her son and daughter came to visit tonight.
They revealed a few secrets: what chewed the window in the mud room, why smoking a cigarette in the bathroom isn’t as secret as you might think, what sound chestnuts make when fed into a hot coal-fired furnace, and how to communicate with the neighbor through a tin can.
We also heard how much of her own work Kathy and her family put into the place: refinishing the woodwork, the floors, custom-engineering the amazing bathtub curtain rod, and many other details. We got some garden tips: Salvia does great in the bed next to the front door. We reminisced about some funny things that are now gone: the octopus furnace, the beautiful old electric stove that looked like a car, and changes in the neighborhood.
Parts of the visit made me melancholy, as I thought about places I’ve left and ways my own family has changed. But, it was nice to feel some continuity as well. We learned we appreciate many of the same things–sitting on the front porch while the rain beats on the roof, waking to the tempting aroma of donuts from the Washtenaw Dairy, sharing dinner with friends on the back deck, and of course the beautiful and funky details of Ann Arbor and this particular place.