Memories tumble out of her head and cartwheel across the floor. – All The Light We Cannot See Anthony Doerr
I have always loved old houses. I like the energy I feel going into an old home. I like wondering about days gone by and family memories hiding in the walls. We have descended Gone With The Wind staircases, moved moth-eaten coats from Narnia-like wardrobes, and seen dining rooms that resemble everything from Hogwarts to Downton Abbey. We have trembled touching old stone walls of homes bombed in Normandy, now housing nothing more than birds and pastoral pre-war memories. We have spent time in apartments that once contained escaped routes over the Berlin wall and are now burgeoning neighborhoods in the center of a unified country.
Some European homes we have spent time in are so rich with history that at times I feel like I am intruding even when the home is vacant. We are currently living in a part of a summer villa that has been closed for the winter. Once or twice I have descended the main staircase to reset the Wifi or the circuit breaker. The banister is so wide that is can’t be gripped. The marble staircase is so cold and yet absorbs sound like a feather pillow. The books whisper in many languages as their shelves reach insurmountable heights. The Tuscan sun peeks through closed shutters and illuminates painted family portraits that are somehow more revealing than photographs.
This home has been in the same family for almost 100 years. It is seeping with history for which we are now apart. The perspective of history from the privacy of one’s home is always more real and raw than the experience portrayed publicly. What an awesome responsibility to tread lightly through the history of the world, from Versailles to war-torn ruins, one living room at a time.