by: John Robinson
stored in: General

Conversations Overheard

My wife and I have lived in the Huffman Historic  District for ten years.  Our house was built in 1850, a time before Dred Scott, Abraham Lincoln’s loss to Stephen A. Douglas for the Illinois Senate seat, and the publication of Stephen Foster’s hit song, “Massa’s in de Cold Ground.”

In the first year or two of our residency, attempts to absorb all of the history our house had experienced over the centuries proved to be an overwhelming, if not impossible, task.  Walking from room to room, trying to imagine the events, both large and small, that may have taken place in them, produced only meager results.  The problem, as I later determined, was that we had yet to be accepted by the house.  We owned it, to be sure.  But we weren’t yet a part of its history.  We were, at best, temporary guests – temporary uninvited  guests.

Over time, I’m happy to report,  and helped along by our efforts to treat the house with love and respect, things began to change.  Now, of a quiet summer evening, sitting on the couch in our parlor reading Dickens, I can sometimes overhear muted conversations – conversations, for example, by a group of men worried over the prospect of a war between the states, or a whispered conversation between young lovers promising eternal devotion.   At this point, I’m confident that some of you are humming the theme from The Twilight Zone and I don’t really blame you.

Sure, I’ll admit to the possibility of having an overactive imagination – an imagination greatly enriched by a career in the make-believe world of live  theatre.  If, however, such possibility helps me to overhear bygone conversations, so much the better.  Personally, I prefer to believe that our house has begun to accept us as a part of its history.  And what better way to show us said acceptance than by sharing some conversations from their time here.

What kinds of conversations do you suppose folks living in fairly new houses overhear?



2 Responses to “The Tales of Huffman”

  1. Joel Michael Says:

    New home owners probably don’t have quite the imagination you do, John. I bet they only hear their own conversations about which shade of beige is least likely to offend the Joneses.

  2. Danielle Dumont Says:

    John, this is a great reflection about living in a house and being part of the historical continuum. I’ve wondered what our front parlor has been used for. A doctor’s or lawyer’s office? I’m pretty sure that it has held a coffin or two, seeing how many funerals and wakes were conducted in the family home. Many of our neighbors mention the ghosts they’ve encountered in their houses. Personally, I’ve never run across one in my house. But it’s entertainig to hear the stories from others…

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