Empty rooms filled with stories untold

Old houses are occupied solely by the ghosts of stories from another time.
Old houses are occupied solely by the ghosts of stories from another time.

THE OLD HOUSE had been forsaken

When?

I have no idea.

The old house was falling apart.

Why?

Age, I guess it was.

And neglect.

Nobody loved it anymore, and it had been left with the ghosts of fading memories to rest forevermore and maybe even in peace.

The old house represented one of the last remnants of an abandoned America.

Decaying houses, weathered gray by time and neglect.

Old white clapboard churches.

Steeples empty.

No wind to ring the bells.

And sometimes, there were no bells in the steeple tower.

Historic homes.

Forgotten homes.

Homes where only memories resided.

My mother would look at them until they were out of sight in our rearview mirror.

And she always possessed the same thought.

It never left her.

“I wonder what those old walls could tell us if only they could talk,” she said.

The walls know all of the stories.

The good.

And bad.

A girl in love.

A boy marching off to war.

A baby’s first cry.

A mother’s last cry.

A father who never comes home again.

Was it war?

Was it fear?

Was it another woman?

The old houses witnessed joy.

And heartbreak.

And sadness.

And divorce.

Neighbors no longer remember who lived there.

Or when they left.

Or why they left.

I know.

I’ve knocked on doors and asked.

I’m a lot like my mother.

I look at the weathered old houses ask the same question she did.

What would those old walls tell me if only they could talk?

But the walls remain silent.

They hold tightly to their secrets.

We can only guess.

We’ll never know the truth.

Not all of it.

The empty room is some family’s library, filled with stories that will never be told. When the old house finally dies, the stories go to the grave with it.

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  • I love old weathered homes and imagining what stories lingered there. I’m much like your mother and you in that respect. I’ve also had the opportunity to visit a lot of old persevered homes during my real estate career. I handle real estate marketing, and love doing it for old properties.

    I remember standing in a home that was built in the late 1700s and opening the door to a “keeping cupboard.” Someone had carved their name into the wood along with the date. It was from the 1830s. As I stood in that house, looking out the windows at the surrounding views, I imagined people doing the same in centuries past. Very haunting.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      I always stand there and wonder about the excitement people felt the first time they moved in and the sadness the last person felt when he or she moved out and closed the door, sometimes, forever.

  • You are not alone in imagining what and who held possession of old homes. There is a little decaying home on 79 not too far from Jacksonville. The wood is dark gray, the roof is caving in, an old curtain hangs in the door window. I wonder if it was someone’s farm house before route 79 plowed through their farmland, and they eeked out a living from summer crops. Call it Irish sentimentality, but it’s nice to dream and imagine. I love your story, Caleb. Simple and true.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Thanks God for the old houses, Pat, and for those who called them home.

  • Writers can only preserve so many stories; people need to write their own stories and the stories from their families down – if they hope for them to stay around.

    There aren’t enough of us.

  • Catherine Green

    Beautiful words! I also love old houses for the stories they tell, which is why I became a ghost hunter. Indeed, my own home uncovered more secrets when we renovated our kitchen recently and discovered layers of wallpaper from decades past behind the old cabinets. It was very exciting!

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Catherine, we have restored two historic home, and, you’re right, you never know what you will uncover. The past is always just one discovery away, and, even when you think you’ve found it all, you know that some secrets will remain secret forever. Those are the ones that intrigue me most.

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