The house with the piano

It was a cloudy day, a Saturday, maybe a little cool as in spring because I remember wearing a jacket. I was six, maybe. My dad took me with him in the car; I guess my sister stayed home with Mom. Dad and I stopped at a house on Flanders Street, east of City Airport. It was a pretty nice neighborhood back then, clean and well-kept. The house was on the corner, and we parked on the cross street and went in the side door. I don’t really remember what the people who lived there looked like or even how many there were. My dad went with them into another room to do whatever businesses they needed to do. They left me alone in the dining room. All the lights were off, but it was mid-afternoon so there was plenty of light. In the corner of the dining room was an upright piano. I was fascinated, although there wasn’t much else in the dining room to be fascinated with. I knew I shouldn’t make much noise, but I did quietly press some of the piano keys, and then a few more, not really making music so much as listening to the random notes. Mostly, though, I stood quietly and was a good kid. Then my dad was done, and we left by the side door (down a few stairs) and got back in the car. I think after that we went to a store, and then went home.

At some point, I realized that the house was at the address of a Christmas card my mom would make out every year. I asked Mom who the person was and she said she didn’t really know, and there was nothing further to ask after that. By the time we moved out of Detroit, she stopped sending cards to that address.

One reason I do genealogy is to try to find ancestors as far back in time as is possible. But perhaps the reason that drives me most is an attempt to flesh out stories like this one, to find out who these people were and what they meant to my dad. I have names, and I have hypotheses, and I still don’t really know much. I especially want to know why I couldn’t know what there was to know. I wish information had been more forthcoming years ago, when people were around who knew the details, but that’s a particularly impotent wish now. There may not be many people left who know, even if I got the courage up to ask. It’s just that I’m still curious, that’s all.


About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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4 Responses to The house with the piano

  1. kishenehn says:

    That sort of stuff intrigues the heck out of me, and every once in a while I go off on a quest for details about some topic from my family’s past. But the results are always way fuzzier than I want, end I end up mostly just wishing that I’d asked more questions back when I was younger.

    • songdogmi says:

      Yes, exactly.

      At college, I had a history seminar where we learned about things like getting oral histories. So after college, I thought I should talk with my dad about the past and see what he’d be willing to tell me. But I never really did. So I know bits and pieces, like he used to take the Interurban train from Algonac to Detroit and back, around 40 miles one-way. But I don’t really know what was going on in his life at that time. Now, I know some facts, such as his mother died when he was 12, so he was in Algonac living with his father, I guess. Would be nice to confirm that, but he’s not here.

  2. laurel714 says:

    Now I want to know who they were!

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