Now and then, I like to take time out from my busy schedule to enjoy the serenity of driving along a back road, normally in Westville.
On one such drive last week, I couldn’t help but notice how friendly everybody is when they live on a country road. Without exception, somebody at each house waved to me.
The rotation of families on that road is amazing. I didn’t know one of them.
Eventually, I drove past my family’s original homestead, built in 1888 by Walter McGibbon, where his son, William, and grandson, Walter, and great-grandson, Arthur — my dad — were all born. My family was living there when I was born, but I made my worldly debut at Alice Hyde Hospital in Malone.
It was a true “family” farm, co-operated by my dad, my uncle and my grandfather. For six years, I lived there, spending my days walking down the long, tree-lined lane with my mother to get the mail and going to the barn with my dad, picking rhubarb and eating it raw — can you say sour?
My bedroom had a sloping ceiling, under the eaves, and tin roof that made me sleep blissfully when it rained. I still love the sound of the rain on the roof.
We moved to a new farm, and my father’s older brother and his wife took over full ownership. Their only daughter had died with a brain tumor at 2 years old, and there were no more children living in that big house. The farm was sold out of the family about 15 years ago.
I was excited to hear that it has been sold again to a young couple with two children. Her grandfather lives next door. I saw him outside, so I stopped to ask if they would like some pictures of the house in earlier days. He said they would love them and offered to take me to the house to see the remodeling they are doing.
The granddaughter, Kayla, was working, but unknown to us, came home while we were in the house. She didn’t recognize my vehicle and thought someone had broken into her house. When she ventured inside, surprising us, she was relieved it was her grandfather.
I love to hear the history of old homes and, much to my pleasure, the young woman has a yearning to know as much about the McGibbon homestead as she can. We walked through the house, and I showed her where my bedroom was, where a part of the present kitchen used to be a woodshed and solved the “covered-hole-in-the-floor” mystery that used to be a floor furnace. I also shared the stories I had been told about the front parlor where family members’ funerals were held.
I told her about my great-grandmother coming there to live when my great-grandfather died. How she shared a bed with one of my aunts and they would eat an orange in bed every night. I told her about the newspaper clipping I found reporting that a great-great-grandmother had fallen down the stairs, broken her hip and later succumbed to the injury.
Happy memories of my birthday parties in the front living room will be backed up by photos I am going to copy and share with the couple. Pictures outside show the lovely flowers and huge trees, some still there on the lawn.
The young couple have great plans for the house inside and out. A flower garden will grace the front of the home next summer because some friends want to be married on the front lawn.
Being a two-family house, it’s large. There are four bedrooms upstairs, one of which is huge; a large bathroom; two walk-in closets; and two reading areas at the top of each set of stairs. Downstairs is a huge kitchen, double living rooms, two bathrooms, two bedrooms and the old front parlor.
I had a dream once to buy and remodel the house myself, but forgot to tell my husband about that dream. When I finally shared my wish, he rolled his eyes and frowned. I have to say after seeing how much work has to be done to the house, his frown is well noted; it’s way too much house for two older people like us.
I’m happy that the old homestead is going to be filled with the laughter of children again, hold the aromas of a balsam Christmas tree and cookies from the oven. If it can’t be my children, who are all grown, or my grandchildren, who are growing up very fast, then God bless the family and children who live there.
I hope in 50 years they can echo the love and sentiments that I have for that old house.
One last thought, as always, please be kind to each other. The world needs more kindness.
Susan Tobias lives in Plattsburgh with her husband, Toby. She started at the Press-Republican in 1977. The Tobiases have six children, 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They enjoy traveling to Maine and Colorado, and in her spare time, Susan loves to research local history and genealogy. Reach her by email at email@example.com.