It’s that feeling you get when you know there is a story to be told or heard. It’s when your eyes meet someone else’s or when there’s a hesitation before you leave when you know there’s a question that should be asked for the puzzle pieces to fit together.
In 1998 my oldest daughter was in preschool. I was running late and as I was backing out of my driveway I noticed the couple parked in front of my house staring and pointing and talking. I knew there was something for me to hear or tell this couple. But preschool was starting and I needed to not be that late parent. Although the school was only a few blocks away, by the time I returned the couple was gone. It was a moment I knew I’d regret for the rest of my life. What was the purpose of them being here?
Cut to 2005, once again a car was parked in front of our house and this time two people were actually standing outside and looking at the house. I assumed these were the same people from seven years earlier and walked out front to greet them. The woman introduced herself and her husband to me. She had grown up in the house. And sure enough when I recounted my missed opportunity to visit with them years ago she confirmed it was indeed her. This was my second chance! I invited Bo and Kathy in and we visited and toured the house, she recapturing memories and me getting a glimpse of the past.
In 2013, and in the midst of developing a non-profit revolving around the preservation of the Yalecrest neighborhood, we reached out to those who we knew were supportive of preservation efforts. One of those people was Sue, a long time resident. She had some history books on our neighborhood that she wanted to share so we began emailing each other. In doing so this is the amazing coincidence that occurred. Below is an email I received from Sue;
I was so surprised to learn that you live in the recent award winning home on Princeton. I know the home well. My oldest and best friend who went through East High, Roosevelt Jr. and Uintah school with me lived there. I grew up on the corner of Emigration Street. We walked to and from school together every day usually meeting at the corner of 17th and 13th. In fact, I saw her this fall when we went to an East High reunion together. At that time she told me she drove by her old house (she always does when she’s in town) and the owner was outside. She stopped and he was so friendly and cordial about showing her the updated house. She raved on about how much she liked you and how happy she was it was in such good and loving hands. Little did I know the whole time she was talking about you. I never did see much of her father but I liked her mother ALOT. I remember in the basement her father had his “bar” room for his friends with old fashioned slot machines and a poker table, etc. Kathy and I would sneak down there and look at his Playboys…. never fully trust your children. Thank you for being so kind to my old friend.
This was remarkable to me, but there is more.
Fall 2014. Our yappy little dog escaped and was out front barking his head off. I ran out to get him only to find a group of people standing in the driveway, no wonder he was so upset. The woman out front says, “Jon?” I answered yes. And she said, “It’s Kathy, I grew up in your house.” I went out to greet her, happy to see her on this third time meeting. This visit she had her two daughters and seven grandchildren with her, all from California. She wanted to show them where she grew up. We were thrilled we were home to greet and invite the whole bunch of them in. We pointed out what we had done to the house since her last visit and they went into the back yard. Her grandkids felt awkward at first but eventually settled in and listened to the adult’s stories. Pictures were taken and another visit came to an end.
This is a follow up email sent to us from Robin, Kathy’s daughter: Thanks again for the tour. My mom is still telling everyone about that day and I truly don’t ever remember her being so happy about any single event as that one tour through “her” house. Hopefully one day I will answer the door of my farmhouse to a family who would like to stroll memory lane. Thanks so much Robin.
Reflecting back, this is exactly why KEEP Yalecrest was formed. To pursue preservation efforts for the properties of our 100 year old neighborhood so that past , present and future generations can enjoy the histories and stories associated with our homes. Afterall, we do not really own them, but are care takers for the next generation to maintain and appreciate them. And pass on the stories. I can only imagine the devastation that Kathy would have felt if she had driven up with her children and grandchildren only to find a demolished childhood home with a new modern oversized, replacement in its place.