I moved into this lovely old but new home last August. I’d always dreamed of living in an old home with history and character. I had such romantic ideas about old houses with white clapboard, side porches and metal roofs and the inhabitants I just knew were immensely happy. How could they not be… living in such a lovely old home with history so far-reaching that words like Great-Great-Great were commonplace.
I’d heard from friends this house was once home to Nina Wilber who was the one room schoolhouse teacher in Delanson. I do believe the schoolhouse still stands just a couple miles away (I’ve got to get a picture). I was told she never married and lived in this house into her 80’s until she could no longer be here alone and then she moved in with friends. I was told Nina was spunky with long gray hair. I needed to know more about her so I looked her up online and discovered on one of those ancestry websites that she was born about 1887 and was 53 in the 1940 census. It looks like her middle name might be Ethel (that was my Grandmother’s name) and that she died around 1968. All this information is speculation from me and statistics and without tendering and joining that’s all I could discover. The truth is the things I really want to know about Nina can’t be found on those ancestry sites. The “stuff” I would like to know is who was Nina really? What made her happy and what made her sad and what was it like living in this lovely house way back then? In my mind Nina is my kindred spirit… both of us teachers, albeit me part-time, and both of us living in this house solo. I wonder did she have a cat like me? I wonder did she suffer from lost love like me? I wonder…
All of this wondering makes me realize that I’ve spent my life trying to find my place. I’ve been searching for a lifetime to find a place where I feel connected, a place where I belong. When I was a kid we moved a few times. They were big moves from Seattle, Washington to Huntsville, Alabama and then from Huntsville to Upstate New York when I was 14. I think all that moving has left me adrift. I’ve always felt like a person without roots and without lifelong connections. Without those deep and abiding memories of my past places and people I’ve always felt somewhat alone.
For example if I had lived in the same place for a lifetime I’d remember things like what my first grade teacher’s name was and I would be able to walk past my old school and I could say things like, “I’ve known so-and-so since kindergarten.” But that is not my reality and I’m not a person to dwell on things like that but I acknowledge it is a part of who I have become. Perhaps those moves made me a person who adapts because I am. Perhaps those moves made me a person who, though a little shy, forces a smile and tries to bring a smile to others. Perhaps those moves brought me here for a Divine reason yet to be revealed.
So in the meantime I’ll enjoy this old place that the previous owners renovated with loving hands and attention to detail. I’ll enjoy seeing my sons’ old high school just out the front window. I’ll enjoy being a part of a little village with neighbors on either side. I love this old house… it suits me and I will enjoy it as long as I am blessed to be here… and I will wait for that reason God brought me to this place. And I will think of Nina the teacher with spunk who lived here too.