by Melissa

Our homes have been witnesses to our everyday lives, as well as to the great events that shape our families. For future generations, our houses might tell part of the story but can our homes be used to document our family history? Viewing my childhood home, one might question who played with the basketball hoop that still hangs over the driveway? Or what family events, besides barbecues, took place in the lanai and pool area? Using aerial maps, someone might question the disappearance and reappearance of an oak tree that appears one year in the back yard and the next in the front yard.

If someone were to gut my childhood home and examine the framework, they would see another part of the story. When the house was being built, my father had my sister and I write our names, ages, and heights on one of the beams. Years later, my dad began a tradition that with every home repair or renovation project that exposed a beam, each child's name, age, height, and a message would be written and preserved. Our family is chronicled within the walls of this house. This idea to document our lives within the structure had been passed down through my father's family.

My grandfather, who served in the Pacific during World War II, returned home after being missing in action for more than two years. Due to his time in the War, he was familiar with nuclear fallout so at the height of the Cold War, he built a house that featured a basement and an underground bunker. My father helped him with the construction and electrical work on the building which has numerous notes inscribed within its structure.

My grandfather grew up in a farmhouse that is a patchwork of each prior generation's development. It was originally a one room abode, but over the years, rooms were added in a haphazard fashion. These rooms are incongruent yet shape a story, such as the second floor staircase, which does not appear strategically placed, except for the fact that it is built over a hidden hallway that would allow the family to hide or escape should the need arise. Among the numerous exposed beams in this house are written notes concerning family members who have lived on the farm in previous and current generations.

Using aerial maps, plat maps, Sanborn maps, and historic photos, we can witness the varying construction and external markings on a structure, which tell us a family story. And who knows what other interesting tales may be residing within the walls of our homes and what they might tell future generations.