My parents bought their house in 1955. Built in 1771, it was well out in the country when I was a boy, on a road that had been paved just the year before, in a town that had only recently gotten dial telephone service. The house was small, run-down, and beautiful all at the same time. Along with the apple trees on the south side, which I mentioned in an earlier post, on its north side it had a a towering elm, a great maple for climbing, and a rustic cedar summerhouse or gazebo. We tossed horseshoes over there, and I once built myself a pitching mound under the elm.

There was also a narrow band of field on its east, leading toward a swamp suitable for muddy exploration. It was often lonely for an only child, but it had its compensations: room to roam, trees to climb or swing from, plenty of space for hole-digging and “camping out.” There was a great hill just down the road for sledding, and a huge puddle formed in the field across the way every winter: perfect for pond hockey. My father put up a basketball hoop for me, but baseball was the house game, and every summer evening, when he got home, I’d be waiting for him with our mitts and we’d have a catch, for which there was a ritual ending. “Ten more,” he’d say, and we’d somehow arrived at the agreement that to count, all ten tosses had to be handled without a bobble. (I never cheated and dropped one on purpose to start the count over, because I never wanted to look bad.) Then he’d say, “One more for luck,” and in we’d go to supper.

The owners at some point earlier in the century, probably for some atavistic anglophilic reason, had christened the property “Blighty.” (We just called it what we still call it: “the house.”) They’d had signs made, which we were told they set out at the two ends of our road when they expected visitors from away. When we moved in, we found the signs in the dirt-floored cellar, where they remained for another 50 years. My dad brought them to me a few months ago, and they’re still sitting in a corner of the kitchen waiting for me to decide what to do with them.

Photo: Paul

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