Tag Archives: Julian Barnes

A Piece of the Past

In 1968, after I married and settled into a California life, I received a gift from my grandmother Agnes Hall. Folded into a plain white envelope was the 1746 deed to part of the land that eventually became the Hall farm. This document, deeding land to my great-great-great-great grandfather Asahel Hall, had stayed for five generations in a desk in the farmhouse living room, maybe waiting to be sent across the country to me. Inside the envelope with the 1746 deed was a second deed and this note from my grandmother.

“These old deeds take this part of the Hall family back to Revolutionary times…Do what you want with them but they are really family history and perhaps I shall take you back by names and dates to the original founders of New Haven and Wallingford.” Yours with love, Grandma Hall

 And this is how my history and knowledge of the farm accumulates. I’ve searched for some, stumbled upon others, and been handed treasures by relatives. For me there are never enough of these bits, and the truth seems never quite complete. I love this quote from Julian Barnes’s novel “The Sense of an Ending.”

 I know this much: that there is objective time, but also subjective time, the kind you wear on the inside of your wrist where the pulse lies. And this personal time, which is the true time, is measured in your relationship to memory.

 I hope to proceed with my stories of the farm in “subjective time,” filtering these bits and pieces of history through my memories, and writing about what I hold closest.

1746 Deed

 My grandmother suggested I frame the deed and hang it on the wall, but I prefer to be able to hold it in my hands once in awhile. More than just a piece of paper, it’s a treasure touched and written on by an ancestor whose son fought in the Revolutionary War. I know it’s a legal term, but the words “Know Ye” seem very grand. The legal part of the deed was printed with hand carved type and the rest written in sepia ink with flourishes added to the letters. In some words the letter s looks like an f, and I can’t read it without thinking about the “heirs and affigns”, which I suppose includes me. I have other deeds to this land, some of which are earlier, but this is the first that mentions a dwelling. I want to believe this is the original Hall homestead. If Wallingford was the center of my world growing up, my grandparents’ farmhouse was, for me, always its heart.

Hall Homestead, ca. 1750

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