The link he sent me to showed the house in Ithaca where we had grown up. It also showed shattered windows and scorched siding. The text told about the smoke-inhalation death of the current occupant and her two dogs.
It was our home until we moved across the street when I was in fifth grade. (Don’t laugh; that was a big adventure.)
Seeing that photo brought back a flood of memories (though I won’t vouch for their accuracy after seven decades).
I remember our garden out in back. We had a strawberry patch there and my brother and I sold strawberries house-to-house for a nickel a quart. (Who could resist a couple of cute kids playing entrepreneur?)
I remember the second-floor darkroom my father set up at the head of the stairs. I watched – and helped(?) – as we worked under a red safelight with negatives (remember them?) and light-sensitive photo paper. It was amazing to watch the pictures slowly come to life in the developer tray.
I remember wanting to be helpful and deciding on my own to cut the grass. The problem was that I didn’t realize you were supposed to mow the lawn in straight strips. My mowing pattern created a maze, the likes of which I’ve never seen again. I thought the resulting design was nothing short of an artistic masterpiece.
I remember coming home from a Saturday afternoon movie serial in tears after the hero had been forced into a fatal confrontation. (In hindsight, I think he faced these near-disasters at the end of each episode of the serial’s 13-week run.) I was so upset I hid under the front porch and cried my eyes out.
I remember the night the Northern Lights put on a super show for us as we watched from the side yard.
I remember a slight tinge of envy when we had to walk to school (it was just across the street) and the other kids got to ride the bus.
I remember lots of school days off, not because of snow so much but because the school’s new boiler system had a mind of its own and apparently decided it would work only when it wanted to.
I remember doorstep milk deliveries. We had tickets, similar to today’s raffle tickets or the old off-the-roll movie tickets, that we would put out to indicate our milk order on any given day.
We had to be alert on cold days and get the milk in the house before it froze.
There was also a door-to-door baker who willingly, for a price, would provide us with fresh breakfast rolls, donuts and bread. I think he worked from a horse-drawn cart.
This was the house where, legend has it, I took off on a whim from the front door, ran through the dining room and the kitchen and out onto the back porch, grabbing the dining room tablecloth on the way through. Fortunately the good Sunday dinner china wasn’t on the table that day. (On the other hand, that may have been just a humiliating story that sprouted and took on a life of its own.)
My brother remembers the paper-cup-and-string “telephone” we set up with the kid next door. He also remembers the wood lot in back of the house with its secret trail leading somewhere – or nowhere.
On occasion when I’ve been back in Ithaca, either passing through or on a business trip, I’ve driven by the house and wondered what it was like inside after all these years. At times I’ve been tempted to stop and ask if I could arrange a walk-through to see the changes – or the similarities.
Now I’ll never know.
Today’s trivia tidbit: According to at least one statistical report, fires are blamed for more American deaths each year than all natural disasters in the United States combined. What’s most alarming is that home fires have become more dangerous and devastating recently because of the flammability of construction materials.
Quips ‘n’ Quotes: British actor Jeremy Irons said, “We all have our time machines. Some take us back; they’re called memories. Some take us forward; they’re called dreams.”
Henry Passenger’s column appears each Wednesday in the Tuscola County Advertiser. He can be reached at [email protected]