05/03/2006 (8:48 am)
I know what you’re thinking – that headline leaves you under the impression that I’m going to write about the things you can always rely on in life, or the solid aspects of country living, perhaps even death and taxes.
But, no, I’m writing about the Constants with a capital C: the family who lived in this house from about 1948 to 1974, before the people we bought it from. If you will, the owners twice removed.
My thoughts turn now to the Constants – well, because several of them showed up this weekened to have a look at the house they grew up in, and, in turn, to tell us a lot about this place we now call home. They were in town from around the country to bury the ashes of their mother, who died in December.
The first to show up was Bob Contstant, on Friday, with his wife. I was on my way to the post office, next door, when someone shouted to me from the sidewalk, “You’re doing a wonderful job with the house, Mrs. Ditmar!”
Stunned, I stopped and said, “Well, thanks. But, I’m not Mrs. Ditmar. We bought the house from the Ditmars last year. Um…who are you?”
He introduced himself, and I invited him and his wife to come in and have a look around.
He told me many things – that there was once a full porch on the front, and other architectural details. But what really got my attention was that he was one of 10 kids (!), although, he said, most of the the time, because of their age differences, there were just 6 or 8 living here at once.
My, how times have changed. Today, Brian and I take up all three bedrooms ourselves – one to sleep in, two for us to use as our offices/makeshift recording studio. At 40, I still hem and haw about whether or not I want to have a kid. I actually have thoughts, in these 1800-odd square feet, of, “Well, where would be put it?” I bristle at the thought of having to forfeit my office to someone in diapers. But there is talk of building me a writer’s cabin out back, so, that would put one room up for grabs…
The next day, three more Constant “kids” – in their 50s – showed up, with spouses and children in tow. They shared colorful stories about so-and-so falling through the attic ceiling onto so-and-so’s bunk bed; about how much smaller the yard seems now that they don’t have to mow it; about collecting rain and snow to report to the national weather service; about choosing the light blue and yellow floral wall paper that gives my office the shabby-chic feel that I love.
Brian asked them whether there had ever been a groundhog in the garage and they laughed hard – not “a” groundhog, but an entire family of them. (We’d better get several of those have-a-hearts.)
As she was leaving, one of the women told a story about being rescued in a boat during the storied flood of 1956, after which the county widened the banks of the Rondout, the creek that runs through town. She fought back tears when she talked about the rains and the gushing tide that drowned the basement and the first floor of the house, destroying many things, including her baby sister’s crib.
5 Comments »
Comment by Kathy
Sari, thanks for your hospitality to the family I married into over 41 years go. How well I remember my first visit to 84 Main Street. Just out of high school and engaged to one of the older “children” of the family – who I had met while he was posted to an Army base near me – there were still a number of the other “children” still at home, and I was overwhelmed.
How I did enjoy revisiting “the house” the other Monday! We were not in the group that made the follow-up visit, but we heard about it from the “baby sister” who was traveling with us, and decided to drive by as we were leaving area. Well, drive by we did; but then turned into the fire station property and drove to the back to check out the suddenly smaller lawn and the view up the “mountain” behind. Many memories were re-kindled!
Because this family is so widely spread over the country these days, the get-togethers are few and far between. Those who had the opportunity to meet you and visit the house were so appreciative of your welcome and your quest for information about the house that is now your own, but that will always be a part of their lives and memories. Thanks again!
Comment by sari
Kathy, thanks for getting in touch! What a treat it has been to meet people from your great family, and to learn more about life here many years ago. You’re all welcome to stop in any time you’re in town. Best regards.
Comment by Martha Butcher
Your blog is great! I so loved meeting you and Brian and touring my childhood home, something I never dreamed would be possible.
I spent the first 20 years of my life there and have so many great memories- kick the can in the street late in the evening during the summer; HOURS of hide and seek with our friends;sled-riding in our backyard on the hill “the boys” made by piling snow and hosing it down so it would freeze; riding the merry-go-round and swings at the school; the first time I mowed the back yard with the electric mower and ran over the cord almost finished – within 6′ of the ditch; learning to iron and sew in the “office”- where your wood stove it; big family gatherings and having to use the kitchen table, dining room table and a card table in the living room to seat everyone; climbing the pantry shelves to sneak cookies before dinner but most important the love we shared.
The village has changed in some ways and not in others. There are empty businesses and the church is no longer a church, but there is still the intimacy of a small place and that is good. I hope you and Brian like living in Rosendale and love the house as much as we did. I can’t thank you enough for letting us visit old memories, it was a fitting end to our weekend together.
Comment by John Butcher
Thanks for the hospitality of allowing the kids to return to the site of so much fun and happy memories.
I’m like Kathy and was welcomed into the family with open arms. Martha had driven me around the neighboorhood and told me stories about her childhood. It was wonderful to check out the house and wonder how all the people were able to live under one roof. Now some of the pictures and the painting have additional meaning to me.
Please keep us posted as to the rentivation on the house and the town. It will be fun to come and check it out from time to time. We may also come to town during the street fair and send the date, thanks.
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