irish travellers

28 02 2009

dsc_0006I was walking down the stairs yesterday late afternoon and was struck by something quite remarkable.  When the sun shines – it casts shadows. Something we don’t see all that often at this time of year here in the Great North so I had to take a picture. And being as how we are within spitting distance of St. Patty’s day, I thought I’d tell you a little story about some Irish Travellers.

I’ve not gotten far enough into the family tree(s) to prove this yet but I have my highly Celtic intuition telling me otherwise.  Travellers are the Irish equivalence of gypsies.  When I was little, I used to tell people that my real family belonged to the circus and that I had been dropped off in Brunswick and I had been adopted by this nice family that was raising me.  Maybe it’s more truth than fiction – I don’t know.  

Since marrying nearly 31 years ago, we have moved some 22 times. I can add another couple on to that pre-marriage, as could the Dr. with three foreign countries and a minimum of  a dozen places before he turned 18.  We only bought our own place 8 years ago and this is the longest we have ever been in one space.  A little scary actually but for now, I’m good with it.  Just last summer we finally went to the trouble of buying real curtain rods for the living room and entry.  I am a little suspicious of commitments like that or of hanging art work for that matter.  The longer I put it off-the longer we stay. Once holes are put in the walls like that something is bound to happen and we’ll have to move.  I just know it!

After years and years of adapting to rental spaces, I grew pretty tolerant.  I could put up with bad layouts, stupid bathrooms, walls in the wrong places and no storage. Every situation was just temporary to me so I didn’t bother getting worked up.

One year when we were going to be back in the States for what we thought was a year (it turned out to be forever – but that is another story), we needed a place to live.  My folks had been made aware of a house in their subdivision that was for rent. The owner had just passed away and his only daughter wasn’t emotionally ready to part with the house or its contents.  Being within a few houses of my folks’ place added to its “perfect” fit.

The four of us have always referred to that particular dwelling as “The Dead Man’s House”.  I know it’s all a bit irreverent now but at the time – it was fitting.  We just got off the plane one night from Spain and walked into the space just as he’d left it. Creeps me out now but what were we going to do…beggars can’t me choosers (same goes for missionaries).  Nothing like The Riches taking over their space.

I could write a book about the adventures we had in that house that literally changed our lives.  Maybe I will some day.  Soon enough, our lease was up and the daughter was ready to move on and sell the place.  She told us we could have first dibs on any furniture or anything else we wanted.  There had been an item or two that had grown on us.  A table for the entry that my mom lovingly stripped paint off of, a big oak desk painted red that we have never found the time to strip the paint off of, and other odds and ends.  There had been one item that I really wanted that she wouldn’t part with but I didn’t really need it.  

I remember a good friend stopping by to visit and us laughing at all the quirky things that decorated our space.  I was guffawing at this “ugly” green vase when she stopped me mid-sentence and corrected me. That ugly vase was a piece of Roseville pottery from the 1940’s that could probably fetch a pretty penny or two.  So I just tucked away that little piece of info.  When the landlord was giving her final OK’s for the things I wanted to purchase, I quickly added, “…and do you want that old vase?” “That ugly thing?  You can just have it!”

So, sort of as a joke, the vase has become part of the dead man’s house in our own journey.  It fits this particular century-old place we are now living with its Arts and Crafts vibe.  Every once in a while, I’ll stop and check out ebay like I did yesterday. Maybe when the money starts to flow again, I’ll end up putting it up for auction myself…and to think someone might want to pay between $275 and $875 for it.

Irish travellers can be con artists.  I got it for free.