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88 year old Charles Fosterling was cleaning out some of his things. Maybe his wife passed away, or maybe he was getting ready to move into a retirement center or assisted living. Maybe, he was just reminiscing. He sorted through papers and old photos, and stumbled upon one of the house his parents built in 1930, when he was just a toddler.

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“I wonder if it is still standing,” he mused.

“I would like to give this photo to whoever owns this house now,” he told his daughter. She agreed to entertain his idea, and they set off to see what they could see.

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The dogs started barking out at the street, and begging to go into the house. Harvey’s tail wagged the way it does when he sees someone he wants to meet. Irritated with the pair of them, I let them in and followed them. Sure enough, there was a blue sedan parked out front, the passenger wheels on our little strip of greenway. A tall blond woman was walking up and down the street, holding a piece of paper in her hand, and staring at the house.

I went back out the back and met her by the driveway. Could I help her? I wondered if she was lost.

She held up the photograph and said, “My father is looking for the house he grew up in. He wants the owner to have this photo.” Then she added, “Would you like to meet him?”

I spent the next five minutes or so, sitting on the lawn beside the blue car, talking to Charles. His parents purchased the property from Mr. Charman, he said. They had to burn the scotch broom off the land, and they owned quite a large piece. What they owned then, is occupied by 8 homes now. They built the house and sided it with asbestos siding, which was popular in the 1930’s, and was inexpensive.

The land around was all forest, and Charman Street ended there by the house, continuing on as only a dirt track through the woods. This house was the only one up here at the time, according to his memory (the photo seems to show a house in the hack, perhaps on the next street over, as the Fosterlings owned everything over to that street. There was a maple tree out front.

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I tried to take my photo from the same angle: the living room has an addition, otherwise, the house is still a basic Cape Cod Bungalow. The front door is in the same place, but the stairs turn to the side. The asbestos shakes are gone, replaced with wide siding planks.

Charles slept in the living room, and his parents had the back bedroom, one of two bedrooms. The second bedroom was up the stairs, and they were narrow, steep stairs. At some point in remodel, the stairs were taken out and resdesigned to code, creating a “Harry Potter” closet where the old stair case was. There’s a mended spot in the softwood floor under neath my desk in the studio: that is where the chimney came through. The fireplace or wood stove was in the center of the house.

Charles spent wonderful years here, exploring the woods and roaming the fields. He was happy to see the house is still standing, and to know that the people who live here now love this house. He doesn’t get around very well anymore. I would have invited him in, but I couldn’t handle the two big dogs and he wasn’t up to trying to walk to the door. He told me that his birthday is April 9, and he was born in 1928. He’ll be 89 next Sunday.

After they left, I scribbled down some notes, trying to remember the story. Charles lived here during a time when many homes sat empty due to the Great Depression. I know the next owner was Barney Schultz, and Barney made sausages in a building out back. Barney died in 2000. When we first moved in, one of Barney’s sons dropped by and told us that much. I believe Barney built the addition to the living room and the garage.

The house was then owned by a young couple who did some major remodeling, including the kitchen, windows, bathroom, laundry, and electric. They removed the chimney and altered the stairs, and opened the loft. We purchased the house from them when they faced some life changes and had to move.

It’s a wonderful old house, a peaceful old house, a house with a lot of fond memories of the people who have lived in it. The rhododendrons out front were planted by Barney, as were the multitudes of peonies. Lots were sold off over the decades, Charman Street pushed through, and Mr. Charman passed into the local history books. Only my neighbor to the north remembers Barney now. She’ll be 89 this year as well. She bought her land from Barney.

This house has seen so much, and it’s beginning to give me its secrets.

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