Where Everybody Knows Your… House’s Previous Owner?

As I’ve mentioned a dozen or so times before, I love living in a small town.

And, also mentioned before, I love living in a house with a history.

The way these two things combine never ceases to amaze me. We’ve got friends our age who grew up being babysat by Mrs. H., our home’s previous owner. We’ve got elderly church members who remember the inside of our house so clearly that we find ourselves explaining the work we’ve done and why we’ve done it. And sometimes people, especially readers of this blog, come up to me and say, “You live in Mrs. H.’s house, don’t you?”

You can imagine that it’s kind of strange to meet people who’ve been inside your house.

So, a story:

Yesterday, I was out walking in my neighborhood. About a half-mile into my journey, I saw an elderly woman sweeping her driveway of the debris accumulated in the recent hailstorm. Naturally I slowed to considered whether to ask if she needed help. (For the record, I would normally insist on helping an elderly person, but considering that I myself am in no condition to bend over these days, I wasn’t sure how much help I would actually be.)

As I got closer, I realized she was nearly finished and had maybe only one or two more scoops with her dustpan left.

In lieu of offering assistance, I merely said “hello” or “good morning” or something vague and noncommittal, to announce my presence as much as anything else. She turned.

And voilĂ , I found myself in conversation.

Where do you live? she asked me.

Over on such-and-such street.

Ah, yes. You walk quite far, don’t you? she said, amazed. (I didn’t really know how to reply, since it didn’t seem that far to me, all things considered.)

Yes, I do, but [rubbing my stomach for emphasis] since I’m expecting a little on in May, it’s good for me to be out and moving around.

Oh, yes. Congratulations.

[Long pause, and then here’s where the conversation became blog worthy. I thought to myself, what can I say to continue a conversation with someone (a) who is obviously a bit hard of hearing and (b) doesn’t seem to have much to say.]

Did you know Mrs. H? [Mrs. H. was an elderly woman herself and had lived in our house for decades before moving into an assisted living facility and selling her home.]

Oh yes, of course I did, she replied.

We live in her home.

Oh, you do! My sister lives right down from there. She had told me when your house sold

And then we talked about where her sister lives, about Mrs. H, my house, the neighborhood, my church (where Mrs. H attended for decades), what brought me to this little town, etc. It was quite a conversation.

All because of a little small town “hello.”

That, my friends, is why we say it.

And why we listen for an answer.

And why we pause to continue the conversation.

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