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Leave Your Mark

December 28, 2009

Thousands of geniuses live and die undiscovered – either by themselves or by others. ~ Mark Twain

It’s certainly no secret that Deborah and I are in love with old homes, and with this home in particular.  I find that the things of the past put the present in perspective and help focus my attention on the important. When I think of an old home like the Fairfield House, I remember that every beam, every bit of gingerbread, and even every old-style cut nail was once the entire focus of a human being’s attention, if only for the moment it took to place the nail and drive it home. The instant likely passed unnoticed and it would certainly  be impossible years later for the workman to recall every nail he had the pleasure to have known. Driving nails was simply a task required, like as not carried out under the impatient eye of a foreman while an equally impatient homeowner counted the days to completion. Most days pass in just this way; our energies spent on incredibly urgent but forgettable tasks which consume our moments and crowd out all else.

Blotter, L. T. Harvey Livery Stable Ad

Yet the things we do and most especially the things we make are a kind of calling card we leave behind for those who are not yet at home; the people still to come. They simply say, “We were here.” We have at the Fairfield House a very special calling card, many of them in fact, recorded as lines on the pages of a register from the hotel once owned by my family, handed down now to me. The reading of it fascinates me. Who were these people, why were they staying over, where were they going, what adventure were they on? Travel was no small matter in those days of horses and steam railroads. Long dead businesses call out from advertisements on the ink blotters, hawking wares no longer to be found anywhere or certainly not at those prices.

Register of June 27, 1885It’s easy to think of the past as a sort of old movie where people live orderly lives in fine homes. The present seems vivid and bright,  the past a distant gray; but for those who lived them, past days were as just clear and sharp and as filled with colors and smells, passions and heartaches.
And so I smile at the occasional seemingly sharp comment in the register between my ancestors, wife to husband over some transaction or other. Did they remember the moments in business or the time in each others arms when the day’s work was finally complete? So much has changed, yet people remain exactly the same.

All of this, to me, is a reminder to pay attention here and now; to not let the sounds of our lives be drowned in the dull roar of endless minutia. Feel the hammer in your hand, hear the sound of the nail hitting bottom, and don’t forget to sign the register.


I am participating in Common Ground’s  Vintage Inspiration Friday.

23 Comments leave one →
  1. December 28, 2009 11:38 pm

    o I love the history of old is so neat to find out that now you are a piece of the history of your is so validating to us as people to know we have left a mark and others care about that mark we leave…beautiful post

  2. December 29, 2009 8:18 am

    What a true treasure to have such wonderful documents. I can only imagine the delight in looking at them.

  3. December 29, 2009 8:33 am

    Love it. Period. Can’t even give a comment worthy of the post. Thank you.

  4. December 29, 2009 10:01 am

    Thomas.. the ‘other half’ of The Fairfield Household. Welcome and what a great post. I forget that former lives have occured in the homes in which we reside. Each household leaving their own ‘heart’ within for others to discover and glean from. To spend hours reading that register would be hours of pure pleasure and thank you for that wee peek of it.. but I wanted more!!

    I understand via your ‘other half’ that you are somewhat of a ‘techie’.. not ‘trekie’ heehee .. and I’ll have to keep that in mind.

    With care,


  5. December 29, 2009 12:44 pm

    The handwriting alone makes that register beautiful to behold! Lovely post….and not just because my last name is Harvey *wink*

    I dream of living in an older home again. Mine is only 25 years young, though the previous owners lived here for over 20 years and left much of themselves here. If these wall could talk!

  6. December 29, 2009 6:16 pm

    Isn’t it interesting what stories can be told about old houses. Our house was built in 1911 and its been interesting finding out all about the history of the house.

    You are so lucky to have that register.

    Gill in Canada

  7. December 29, 2009 6:19 pm

    Great post. I love old homes as well and the history that reveal. We live in a home from the 40’s and it’s been fun to learn about the previous owners.

  8. December 30, 2009 10:22 am

    Good morning to you! I appreciate the visit and the lovely comment!
    I followed you right back over here and read back to your first post.
    A lot of folks have commented on your writing ability and they are right.
    It’s like reading poetry…very relaxing and thought provoking.

    I loved this post – G-Man and I just got 7 boxes of books (late 1800’s and early 1900’s) at a recent auction of a local Victorian home and it’s contents. We have had such fun going through all of them. Some of them are personal financial journals. You almost feel like you are transported back while you are trying to imagine faces, emotions, and circumstances of the person to whom the beautiful writing belongs.

    I, too, will be visiting the Fairfield House often.

    Have a blessed New Year.

  9. December 30, 2009 10:57 am

    Hi- I found your blog from Beach Brights comments and Ihad to check it out –
    I love old historic homes, and have checked out the website you found yours on many times.
    We stil are debating whether to build a new house on our property in Tenn or buy and old old house and redo –
    I have enjoyed your blog and will continue to check it.
    thanks for sharing your pictures.

  10. December 30, 2009 11:34 am


  11. December 30, 2009 6:16 pm

    This post is fantastic…and I especially love thinking of the work we do to our old homes as a “calling card we leave behind for those who are not yet at home.” So true!

  12. December 30, 2009 7:14 pm

    So good! We lived in a hundred year old home a few years back, and while remodeling, we found personal and business letters, photographs, jewlry and small toys etc. from the original family who built the house, all buried in the walls. It was like piecing together an interesting puzzle and we were adding to it. When we moved away, we left all the things we found with the house and even left a few of our own things in the walls during renovations for someone else to find in another hundred years. Somehow, it puts a new light on everyday things, just like you said.

  13. December 30, 2009 11:06 pm

    This post reminded me so much of when we were fighting to get our home off the market- It was the first place we had found and knew before we even set foot inside that we were home. Before we actually moved in I used to ache to be inside of the lonley home that no one cared about anymore. I am always curious to know who lived here, who still resides here, and what our spinning book case was used for! Thank you for your wonderful post, it makes everything so much sweeter.

  14. December 31, 2009 2:49 am

    Hello Deborah,
    Thank you for your kind comment on my painting. Your blog is beautiful. I have enjoyed reading it. Have a happy new year.

  15. December 31, 2009 11:05 am

    Beautiful post and blog! We built our tiny house from the ground up, so I felt your words as I read them. The history and workmanship in your home are priceless.

    I’ve added your blog to my blogroll, and am looking forward to reading/seeing more.
    Happy New Year!

  16. December 31, 2009 1:26 pm

    So glad to have you stop by and visit. I will enjoy getting a chance to look around your blog! Merry New Year Wishes!!! ~Mandy

  17. December 31, 2009 11:27 pm

    Oh, I just wrote out a comment and lost it! This was an absolutely beautiful post, Thomas! There are some thought provoking things to think about here…I especially appreciated that “past days were as just clear and sharp and as filled with colors and smells, passions and heartaches.” I think about this often and I believe that is why I love historical fiction and nonfiction so much – to see the past come alive again! You’ve reminded us to slow down and to not get overly caught up in the mundane. Thank you so much!

  18. January 1, 2010 3:34 pm

    I just popped by to say hi and it looks like I am going to be here for awhile…. your home is darling! I can’t wait to read more!

    Happy New Year!

  19. January 2, 2010 12:15 am

    beautifully said

  20. January 2, 2010 8:45 pm

    I love old homes and wish I lived in one! So instead we are working on giving our mid-century home old charm. Happy new year to you!

  21. January 2, 2010 10:33 pm

    What a wonderful treasure to have! I too could spend hours reading all the names on the register and wondering about the stories there. Thank you for stopping by my blog and allowing me to find yours – it definitely looks like one worth following!

  22. Jennifer permalink
    January 3, 2010 9:12 pm

    Yes! Wonderful post! I feel so much the same way, living in this house and experiencing all of it’s history. We are so much alike, us today and those of yesterday.
    We now own the guest book that was once for “Woodhaven”…the camp that Ms. Marietta and her husband owned over 4 decades ago. It’s fascinating-full of history-and I love the comments that people left. It’s like a little bit of time traveling when I open that book.
    Anyway, this post reminded me to make “today” count…and thanks for that!

  23. January 7, 2010 5:53 pm

    I found you guys through The Lettered Cottage. I was SO THRILLED just now to see I had a comment from you on my blog!!
    I’m tickled you found me too 🙂

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