It's cold in this old house. The window's broken in the study... the top, middle pane. Looks as if a bird or a rock or a fist flew through it, leaving jagged shards as a reminder of the assault. I wonder how long it's been that way. Twenty years? Fifty? Ninety? I'll try to tape it up tomorrow.
I suppose it would help if this place had electricity. Insulation. Old newspapers stuffed in the wooden walls. Something. I moved my iron bed into the former dining room/sitting room/bedroom, the warmest room in the house, and am under all the covers I have. Mae is under here with me. I wonder who's trying to get warmth from whom.
We painted the old woodwork between the entry hall and the "great room" today, Mae and I did. (I'm still calling it the "great room" because I have no idea what purpose the room will serve.) Lori told me it's the room Miss Freeman lived in before she left and died. I guess as she got older and more brittle, Miss Freeman shut up one room, then another, then another, until her life was confined to the great room, nearest the front door, and the bath. I wonder if she knew how badly the roof leaked in the back hall, or what a mess her roses in the yard had become. It must have been a very small world she lived in, here inside this house.
But I know Lori's right about this being Miss Freeman's last room. There are rocking chair impressions rutted into the linoleum. An old phone list thumb-tacked to the wall, right between two white frame shadows on the peach sheetrock. It's odd to stare at those marks where the pictures used to hang. I get a strange feeling, like I'm seeing something I shouldn't. I wonder what - or who - looked out from those frames. There are no other nail holes in the walls, just those inside the frame stains.
Of course, Miss Freeman wasn't the only one whose life played out in this house. Tonight, right after it got dark, I made my way to the front door and its cold, slick windows. I wondered, as I leaned against them, who else had stood in my same position, a hundred years before, and pressed their forehead and palms to the glass, watching. Waiting. I wondered whose feet had worn footprints into the floor boards. Whose fingers had turned the old brass knobs and lost the skeleton keys that locked them tight. I wondered what I would think of these people and what they would think of me. This may be my house now, but I still share it. I share it with rooms full of memories and lives that have gone before.
I'm tired. Tired of working and tired of thinking. And my fingers are too cold to write anymore. Hopefully tomorrow will be warmer and I can make some headway on clearing out that back cabinet. I hope, anyway.
(The entry in my Freeman House Renovation Journal, three years ago today.)