Tuesday, May 12, 2015

All in the Family

I'm wrapped up in learning about a family that lived in our building when it was still a single-family home, from 1909 to 1950. They were fascinating, intelligent, admirable people; I've just gotten two books about them from Widener Library. There's lots to tell, and I'll start telling it to you soon.

It's strange to think that a week ago I barely realized they existed; I only knew the family's name. Now, it's difficult to sit in our rooms and not wonder what they did here, what books they kept on the old built-in bookshelf in our bedroom, and whether their stockinged feet also got stabbed by the nails that sometimes pop out of these top-nailed floors. What did they keep on these mantelpieces, and what artwork hung on their walls? And who was ill and died in what room, since both parents and one daughter died at home.

I believe there are no ghosts here, or if there are, they are not intrusive. These people were too polite and sensible to waste their time haunting. But now this apartment feels different, like it no longer belongs to us. I feel like we've been sharing or borrowing their house all along — a home where children grew and blossomed, where great scientific ideas were born, and where one of the first female surgeons treated her patients. An awful lot went on here during their time; even with too many cats, we're tame in comparison.

This all began when a letter arrived here from Paris last week, addressed to the lady doctor, who died in 1950. (Opening mail addressed to dead people can be a very good idea.) I'll give you more details later. Right now, I want to go back to reading, and wondering what their furniture looked like.


  1. Sounds like the makings of a book, or at the very least a series for Masterpiece....

  2. Fascinating, intriguing. Having purchased an abandoned (in the 40s) house in 1978..and having to research and get clear title on the property, I understand how you feel. Many years ago I wrote about it on my blog. Search there for Lanesville or Greenough and you might find the story and pictures (I haven't looked at it for quite some time).


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