Almost fifteen years ago our adult son moved back in with us while he went back to school. He stayed for seven years.
Living in a multi-generational household wasn’t easy, but we managed. It took humor, patience, and love. But when the humor ran dry, the patience wore thin, and the love felt tempered by irritation, it helped to have a room to go to and a door to slam.
I thought often about my ancestors during that time and fortified myself with the knowledge that if they could do it, so could I. There were almost always several generations living under the roof of the Hall farmhouse. Aaron built with this kind of living in mind. There were enough rooms to go around, and definitely enough doors to slam. The living room alone had nine doors, although until the 1930’s the one big room of my childhood had been divided into three smaller chambers.
Over the next few months I’ll take you on a tour of the house – a room here and a room there. I’ll begin with the room where my parents started their life together – the upstairs front bedroom.
My mother, Janet Hall, and my father, Charles Grantham Crump married in 1943. It made sense for them to move into the farmhouse with my grandparents while my father did his Coast Guard service during the war. It would be over two years before they had the time or the money to build their own house. In the photo below, my mother sits at her vanity table in the light-filled bedroom at the upstairs front of the farmhouse.
After my birth in the middle of the winter of 1945, my parents brought me home from the hospital to this room. Surely it was cold there even with the clanking and hissing radiators doing their best work. There were no bathrooms on the second floor, just chamber pots under the beds for nighttime use. The switch for the upstairs hall light was at the bottom of the stairs, so an upstairs sleeper needed candles, or flashlights, or someone to turn the switch for them when they reached the top. Later, when I was older and spent occasional nights at the farm, it was my grandmother who did this for me, waiting until I got to the bedroom door and told her goodnight before she pushed the round black button that started the darkness.
It was in this same room in October 1969 that my husband and I, on an overnight visit to my grandmother, stayed awake long into the night in the big lumpy bed with the chamber pot underneath, trying to decide whether or not to go to Alaska. In a way, this was the start of our life together, because we decided to go north to build our own rooms and doors.
On Wednesday: Ginger Cookies