136. The Mail Came Bringing Me Old Photos…

Not much exciting comes in the mail these days.

Yet hope springs eternal, and I always walk out to the mailbox with an anticipation that is rarely fulfilled.

Until yesterday — the mail came bringing me an unassuming envelope with a hand-written return address from Texas. I  knew immediately what it was and who it was from: my second cousin, Buzz, who visited last October had promised me some old photos of the cottage, taken when he was a boy visiting the farm.

Precious old sepia photographs spilled from the envelope. Carefully numbered, he had labeled each one with names and sometimes a date. The cottage is older than we thought.

Apple Hill Cottage, circa 1936

I wish I could tell what kind of flowers and shrubbery that is. When we first started work on this side of the house, I pulled out a sad looking, old-fashioned thorny white shrub — bridal veil I think it’s called. The pump is long gone, but the well is still there. Mr. H.C. is forever mad at his mom for selling that pump…

Buzz is hanging on to the pump handle, and that’s his older brother Jack next to him. This is circa 1936 or 37, and those are the kitchen windows we lovingly restored. The landscaping around the house makes me think that the cottage is at least a few years old when these photos were taken. That puts it considerably older than the early forties, which we had estimated.

Here’s a shot of what the windows looked like after Mr. H.C. put up the storm windows. You can tell the window on the right was not quite finished. I guess I should take another photo…

Kitchen windows from outside

I love the simple trim around these windows. If you look carefully at the old photos, you’ll notice all the windows were trimmed like this.

This is the front door of the cottage where the living room windows are now. There’s no way to bring back that charming little entrance with the lattice and the vines — at least in that spot. But I’m thinking on it…
buzz mariam mom

I especially love this photo because that’s my mom on the right with her cousins, Buzz and his older sister Mariam. I knew right away it was my mom, because, I have a photo of myself at that age, and oh my goodness, we could be twins. Mr. H.C. took one look at the photo and said, “That looks like you!” My Mother, My Self…
buzz Jack Mom
In this photo, if you look very hard, you can see the awning that is decorating the kitchen entrance. That’s Buzz, and his brother Jack in the wagon, and the little giant girl next to them is Mom. Mariam is in the background, and you can also tell that there aren’t many trees in the side or back yard yet, and the huge sycamore in the front yard is not yet planted.

Old folks at the cottage

That’s the old folks sitting out in the front yard by the road. The fence was gone by the time I was a girl and playing in the front yard. My grandma Carrie is on the left, then her mother Laura, sister Edna and her husband Jim (who I always heard was in the circus) and sister Ethel and her son Buzz are on the right. He dates this photo ’36 or ’37 also. It’s hard to tell where in the front yard this is, but again, there aren’t many trees…

So one of my secondary categories on this blog is 40s houses. I guess I’m going to have to change it to 30s houses.

Here is a painting that Joe and Clara had done of the house when they bought it in 1974, before they started renovating. Painting of Apple Hill Cottage, ca.1973

And here’s what it looks like today — still under construction. We haven’t really gotten to the outside of the house yet. But we hope to have the gray cedar shakes all painted white by the end of the summer, as well as replicating the trim around the front windows.

Oh yes, and siding over the Tyvek, and new gutters, and a repointed chimney, and… and… and...

Oh yes, and siding over the Tyvek, and new gutters, and a repointed chimney, and the sliding glass doors replaced… and… and…

But for now, there’s nothing like old photos to bring home the amazing circles of life.


Thomas Wolfe wrote You Can’t Go Home Again, and the title has become an often-quoted phrase about change and memory.

Sheep farm on Ruff Creek Hill

sheep farm on Ruff Creek Hill

Yet here I am. Back home in These High Green Hills. Living within two miles of my childhood home. Living on what used to be my grandfather’s orchard.

Sunrise from my bedroom

sunrise from my bedroom

Sometimes a bit like being A Stranger in a Strange Land, but more often it is like being a stranger in a familiar land. Older and wiser, I see the familiar with new eyes — The Return of the Native…

The road home...

journey home…

New eyes that appreciate the beauty of the hills, streams, and roads of rural Appalachia.

these high greene hills

these high greene hills

New eyes that appreciate the need for economic development, but worry that it will spoil the ecosystems, the water, the landscape.

the cows' field, disturbed

the cows’ field, disturbed

New eyes that see God’s mercy on my life and the blessings of coming home again.



Landscapes? Yep, I got ’em! About 500 on my phone alone! The top three were taken today; the others are from a greener season …


It’s a local landmark
in our front yard.

“Is that the building with the tree in the middle?”
they ask.

We nod and smile.

Only the old folks remember
it used to be a

Bleachers built
in a perfect hexagon
around the tree
for bushels of gleaming red
and glowing gold apples —

Jonathan Mcintosh
Cortland Winesap
Golden delicious
Yellow transparent.

Apples on pa's box.jpg

Breathe deep
Smell the sweet
Hear the shouts of sisters
jumping down the bleachers
between the baskets–
our feet zing
and echo
on the wooden boards.

The years transform
the echo
into the whine
of brine trucks
speeding up the road.

When did I get old?

apple on crate



Gratitude for the old cottage that has come round to my life again…