I glanced out the window. The man was still there, staring at our house from across the road. The woman had wandered a short distance away, looking at the neighbors’ lilac bushes. But he just leaned against the car, his gaze intent.
Something in his expression sent me outside and down the front steps. As I crossed the street toward him, he gave a start and straightened. Not a guilty reaction. More like embarrassment at being caught.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I was just looking at your house. My grandfather built it for his family, in 1926.” He smiled shyly. “I haven’t been back here since I was a boy.”
So, of course, I invited him and his wife to come in and see the house. He pointed out changes, reminiscing about memories like going with his grandfather to fetch coal from the basement. They didn’t stay long. As they left, he paused on the front porch.
“My mother remembers the Great Depression,” he said. “My grandfather was a brick and stone mason, so he mostly stayed in work. If they didn’t have money, people he did jobs for paid him in food. Every Sunday after church, the men would set up long tables on this porch. The women would cook and load the tables with food, and anyone could come and eat.”
He gestured. “She remembers the house and yard full of people walking around with plates, talking to each other and eating. For some of them, it was the only decent meal they’d get all week.”
In the silence that followed, his shyness returned. “Well, thanks. I won’t take any more of your time. It was good to see the house again.” But his smile held a hint of sadness. “It’s changed a lot.”
When I picked up David from work, I told him that story. He loved it as much as I did. “That’s quite a legacy,” he said.
A legacy of generosity and true hospitality. May this be one thing about the house that will never change.