This is the house that Milah built.

1 10 2008

In the 1960’s no one was in a place financially to swing it. My great grandfather, Miles Alan or Milah as he was sometimes called, supposedly built this house on Institute Street. It had passed from him to his daughter Geraldine and upon her death left to her nieces and nephews. It had to be sold and passed out our family.

Everyone was established in Gary and no one thought about returning to the homestead. Who would have guessed that our family would move back here in 1967? But the house had undergone lots of changes by then and now stands about double the size of the original. I always drive by when I’m here hoping to see a sign out front that says they want to give it back to our family.

Oral history is a tricky thing. Things that you think are gospel truth sometimes are far from it. Things get twisted with so much repetition. I find myself at this point in the story amazed at how much I don’t know and the hour is getting late. All the questions I should have asked my dad years ago…but what does it really matter in the end?

Remember me fixing the sconce last week when the wiring blew? I never knew where these ornate, scrolly doodahs had come from. One has a ram at the top – the other a lion. There are some kind of kissing birds crest on the front (temporarily wired for winter till we take them both off in the Spring for a new paint job).

If I would have had to venture a guess, I would have said that my dad brought them at someone’s garage sale thinking they would fancy up our little mid-century modern ranch. With it’s setting on a half acre of land – I suppose it could pass as an “estate”.

What do I know? Obviously not much. As I was wrestling with Wiring 101 my mom mentioned that they had been on the carriage house behind Miles’ house.

They had taken them down before the house sold along with rescuing two headstones of my great-great grandfather and his daughter that had been turned upside down and used as paving stones in the backyard.

Please note: I did NOT say they had been buried in the backyard. The stones had needed to be replaced and these “old” stones were repurposed. HA! Another clue that pack ratting, repurposing and hanging on to stuff is passed from generation to generation.

My mom went on to draw my attention to something I had never noticed in the 40 plus years they’ve lived here: the fixture beside their backdoor goes with other two. They’d all come from Miles’ house.

Magically as if someone had sprinkled fairy dust in my eyes, I thought they were beautiful. Not because I would have ever picked them out to put on my old Arts & Crafts Foursquare…but they took on a value because of where they’d come from. And you can bet your bottom dollar that they will come down from this house before it is ever sold too…not to go on my house – but at least someone else’s in the family.

I’d much rather have the headstones!

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