“The House of Memories”

by Mabel Sullivan Barton

This short story is dedicated to all who shared with me these unforgettable memories.

To my beloved sisters, Elsie, Evelyn and Marjorie –
To our dear friends and relatives still living – and most of all, with dear reverence, to my beloved parents, to my brothers, to my aunts, uncles and cousins. To their ever-abiding faith. They are gone now, and in their final resting places. May God be with them all.

“Golden memories, even poignant memories,
We share, as the years go by.
But the memories of Aunt Kate’s house,
We shall cherish ‘till we die.”

On this rainy afternoon of December 14, 1968, I write of the golden memories – so uppermost in my mind.

Remember the old house, a historic tavern, built in the 1700’s? “Aunt Kate’s”, we called it, in our childhood days. The proud and stately house – proud as the large elm tree on the front lawn, whose wide, green, branches shaded it from the sun.

The house is gone now -- gone from this earth – to make room for one of those many shopping centers, that are constantly expanding in the fascinating world of business. Gone now, but I still see it as it stood there, bringing back the endearing memories of my childhood – so dear to my heart. Those memories that stay so vividly in my mind – the memories I shall joyously cherish until the end of my days.

Remember the large, green, well kept lawn and the flower beds that our aunt so lovingly cared for? Remember the large, honey-suckle vine that covered the long window and the ivy vine covering the rear of the house? Remember the two trees we loved – the large smoke tree and the beautiful bitter-sweet tree? Remember the many grape vines, the pear trees and most of all, the apple orchard, the blossoms perfuming the air in the spring and giving us such delicious fruit in the fall? I must again mention the honey-suckle vine, where we posed for “snap shots” in out communion and confirmation veils? What a beautiful back-ground it was.

Remember the path between our house and “Aunt Kate’s” -- where in the summertime, we would run, in our bare feet, to greet Aunt Annie or Aunt Eliza, who would visit us often? I can still see Aunt Annie getting off the trolley car, always laden with boxes of home-made candy and cookies, she faithfully brought us with the goodness of her heart? Remember running to greet cousin Anna who also was a frequent visitor? She would stay for a week at Aunt Kate’s and we would all wash our hair in the precious “rain water”. How we loved to walk to the Post Office with her, to collect the mail and spend our pennies on a luscious, tempting piece of candy?

Remember the Windsorville people, who drove over in their fancy “buggy”? Remember Kate Murray and Marjorie Dickinson, who came in the surrey with the fringe on top? Remember the old barn, where we kept our own horse “Nelly” and “Daisy” the cow? Remember the large haylofts, and how we enjoyed jumping from one to the other? Remember the apple orchard, where, in the fall, papa would gather all of the “wind falls”, put them in a large wagon -- and off to the cider mill, we would all go? What a thrill that was.

Remember – on a rainy day, how we all played upstairs in the old “Ballroom”, where many a traveler stopped – back in the 1700’s, for rest and relaxation? Remember the niche in the wall, with the little seat -- where the old “Fiddler” played for the dancers at that time? Remember the little music room? How we played the organ and sang to our heart’s content?

Remember the acres and acres of land surrounding the old house, where we had plenty of space to romp and play? Remember our dear friend and neighbor, Catherine Costello, who always joined us in our play?

Remember the old swimming hole and the large lot we walked through to get there -- up past the old chicken house, where it was such a temptation to stop and slide down its high, slanting roof – and on past the “Sullivan” lot – where the bays came from Rockville to play ball every Sunday – over to the cool, wooded areas and finally to the pond – to swim and paddle in its invigorating waters? How we enjoyed this, especially when the O’Connor girls and their friends from Hartford, would join us. Remember how they spent the whole summer at Aunt Kate’s and enjoyed, as we did, every golden minute of it?

Remember Christmas at our house? Remember our lovely tree and the gifts dear Mama worked so hard to prepare for us? Remember our small living room, so cozily heated by the old pot bellied stove? Then to Aunt Kate’s for Christmas dinner at eight, when cousin Eddie and his wife Jean were the special guests? Cousin Eddie, so charming and handsome – and Jean, the artist, so elegantly dressed? Remember her perfume, with its haunting fragrance? Oh – such beautiful memories. I shall never forget Aunt Kate’s Christmas. The large dining-room table filled with fabulous home-made food. Remember the fireplace, draped with holly – the old Grandfather’s clock, and most of all, the beautiful Christmas tree near the old bay window, where we joyfully opened our gifts from them?

Remember the summers, sitting on Aunt Kate’s front lawn and watching the trolley cars go by – eagerly listening to dear Mama, to dear Aunt Annie and Aunt Kate – so intrigued by their unique combination of wit, wisdom and plain common sense? How we enjoyed their remarkable stories, and how we never forgot, for a moment, the principles they so religiously taught us.

Remember, sitting out on their steps after dark – listening to the “Katy-dids” – looking up at the star lit skies to find the “Milky Way” or the large or small dipper? How we would enjoy their witty stories.

Remember the old Blacksmith shop – the well worn path, lined with apple and pear trees – where we would go to watch Papa tend the forge and shoe the horses? How he would take such pride in building the wagons that were always completed with the utmost perfection. When his work was done he would carry the smallest of us “Piggy-back” on his broad shoulders – and the rest of us would follow him home so proudly.

Remember Mama, taking her well earned hour to go to Aunt Kate’s to talk about the happenings of the day – we children followed her up the path, not wanting to miss anything?

I could go on for hours, remembering those glorious days. Our little town has grown to vast proportions since those happy years. Today, it does not mean so much to me – as most of our dear friends have gone. They are replaced by scores and scores of people – who are now enjoying this extremely modern age.

I shall end this little story by telling you all, with sincere appreciation – how fortunate we all are – to have experienced such rare, nostalgic moments – in our beautiful and unforgettable childhood.

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