Eleanor Jane

The first time I met Miss Eleanor it was an early July afternoon and the temperature boiling.  She had put a small ‘For Sale’ sign in her front yard earlier that week, so small that it was not much bigger than a greeting card, knowing that someone would come.

We were those someones.  It was our destiny.

She let us in her home where honestly it wasn’t much cooler inside than outside on that summer day.  All the windows were closed and there was but one fan whizzing by somewhere in the back of the house.  It was trying its hardest to produce some sort of cold air so she could sit in her recliner, watch the news, and talk on the phone all day to her friends. 

{I’m sure we were the topic of her conversation that day.}

Within five seconds of walking through that door I knew.  I spied the corner of a beautiful fireplace with a summer screen.  If she had given me the opportunity I would have signed the contract right there.

There was something special about her homeplace.  Something so full of history and wonderful and already such a part of my soul.

I’ve said before it was like a dance to buy her home.  During the almost three month process we never mentioned money to her and all legalities of attorneys and closing dates and such were passed through her niece and then told to her after we left.  If she had anything to say about the sell it was told to Margaret who relayed it to us.

Miss Eleanor was a strong-willed, stubborn lady in her late 70s then.  She had never married and was what my mama calls a “change of life” baby meaning that by the time she was born her three older siblings were basically grown.  Her father died when she was a small child which left her and her mama to fend for themselves together.  She was strong and had opinions and could give you a sideways glance and an upturned mouth that would cut right through you. 

But boy did I love her from the start.

She let me ask question after question after question.  Yes, of course she remembered when her mama bought that Hotpoint stove in 1939 {it had replaced their wood burning two-eyed Jack after all}.  Yes, she remembered when they put the radiators in and stopped using the fireplaces.  She even remembered the man’s name who did in the early 40s and she would spell out each letter which I wrote it down in the big notebook I carried around with me whenever I was with her.  She told me about the drunk boarder who once fell thirty feet over the stair railing who just got up and walked away laughing.  About the World War II soliders being shipped off to war who would let slips of paper with their names and addresses float out of the train windows as it carried them to ships that would take them to other countries to fight.

She wrote to several and one even came calling after the war.  But he lived too far away and she wanted to stay with her mama and her small town.

She worked at the phone company for years and always wore high heels.  She was pretty with beautiful hair and was impeccably dressed.

And when I got to meet her that first day she was sharp as a tack, smart, and inquisitive about why exactly these two young people wanted to live in such an old house.  Why didn’t we want to go live in a nice, new house in a subdivision?  Because that’s what she was going to do!

During the restoration I thought about her constantly.  ‘What would Miss Eleanor think of this paint color?’  ‘Will she be upset we tore down this wall to make a mudroom?’  ‘Will she think the house is pretty?’

She came to see it five months later when we had finised.  She talked on the front porch for almost an hour before she made it inside, almost as if she wasn’t sure if she was going to like what she saw.  She didn’t say much as she walked around, just a little ‘Hmpf’ every once in awhile.  Finally, when she came back outside she said in her matter-of-fact, never sugar coating what she had to say way, ‘Well, I’m not sure if it’s what you were going for, but it looks just like it did in the 1940s!’

We assured her that it was indeed the look we were going for and she looked at us like we were crazy and shook her head.

I talked to her a few weeks ago about a myseterious water leak on the outside of our house to see if she knew where it was coming from.  We had looked for hours and had called her as a last resort.  Of course she knew were it was coming from and she remembered who installed the pipe fifty years ago too…if I wanted to write his name down in my notebook.

When we told her we were naming our daughter after all she said, ‘Well, now, that is special’ and left it at that.  But I know it made her proud as she was always calling to check on Mary Margaret Eleanor {she always made sure to call her by all three names} and sending her little mementos signed “With Love, From the Other Eleanor”.  I hope she realized how much she meant to us.

I loved her sassiness.  And her kindness {and patience} towards me.  I loved her strength and resillence.  I loved her with my whole heart. 

When I heard this morning that she had passed away last night I was so sad at first.  And honestly if you looked at me right now with tears rolling down my cheeks you would think I still was.  But I know she is in heaven with her daddy and mama and her brother and sisters–all of who she hasn’t seen in a very long time and I know she is thrilled.

But that doesn’t stop my heart from hurting.

We love you, Miss Eleanor.   You have left an imprint on our hearts.


C., Natalie, Mary Margaret Eleanor, and Moseby

5 Responses to Eleanor Jane

  1. Sandy April 11, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    What a beautiful tribute. I have tears on my face, too.

  2. Rebecca Mullins April 11, 2012 at 9:37 am #

    Natalie, I read this and cried too. Thank you for loving old things….houses and people…. and seeing that special something in them that not everyone does.

  3. Kathy H. April 11, 2012 at 10:29 am #

    This is beautiful. So sweet and heart felt.

  4. Carrie Davis April 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    she sounds like a wonderful lady, I’m so glad she was in your life. This is a beautiful post.

  5. Valerie April 11, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    What a sweet story. I would love to meet someone who once lived in my house…

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