I’m a millennial (don’t tune me out yet!) who grew up in a nearby suburb and had a picturesque childhood. My parents still live in my childhood home. Every so often, I like to sit in my old bedroom. The furniture is unfamiliar now because it became a guest bedroom after I moved out, but that doesn’t keep memories from flooding my mind.
I did countless hours of homework beside one of the windows that overlooked a beautiful magnolia tree. The current paint color covers the place on the wall where my husband painted a marriage proposal. I can still see the words every time I walk into the room. My story began in that room, and, even though I no longer live there, those walls remember everything that happened.
Today, I live here in Xenia with a family of my own. As I write this, I’m sitting in a room that is just a few decades younger than this little town. History class never excited me growing up, but now I can’t get enough information on the history of our home. Although it has quickly become the space we love to call our own, I can’t help but wonder what these walls have seen and heard in the nearly 200 years they’ve stood.
Each interior wall in our home is 16 inches thick. Sturdy layers of brick now stand behind drywall and paint. They are thick enough to hold hundreds of memories of the families who lived here long before I was born. If these walls could talk, this is what I’d ask them:
Did John Edwards regret turning away his daughter and her Native American husband?
John Van Buren Edwards, whose mother was cousin to President Van Buren, lived with his family in this home in the late 1800s. He was well respected, well educated, and wealthy. Still, I wonder what he said to his wife, Adaline, the moment he shut the door after they refused to talk to their daughter because of her interracial marriage. How did they justify it to one another? Was their status in the community worth giving up their relationship with their oldest daughter? Surely, this was a hard day for the Edwards family. What did these walls hear?
I’d also ask these old walls to recount the many ‘devil winds’ they’ve experienced over the years, especially in 1974. Of course, I know there are hundreds of people who have as many stories to tell about that day. Somehow, these walls, although damaged and since repaired, stayed strong in the midst of devastating winds. Today, I am quick to reassure our children, when they are scared in a storm, that these walls have stood strong through decades of thunderstorms. That fact, after a short prayer, always seems to help.
If these walls could talk, there would be stories of pain, joy, love, and loss; they would speak for days. Since they can’t talk, I’ll keep digging through archives to find what stories are there to uncover.
Heather Bright is a local resident and guest columnist.