But a piece of mail from a state retirement system a few weeks ago looked too important to send back. Through a neighbor, we contacted the previous owners of the house, who lived in it from 1991 to 2005, and asked if we could forward the mail to their new address. They said that they were going to be in the area the following day, and we could give it to them in person.
Why not? We had some questions about the house, and knew that they probably wanted to see what it looked like as they had done a lot to improve the property and had raised a family there.
So we invited them over. And it was a lot of fun! We were surprised to learn that they were only the third owners of the house, which was built in 1916. They purchased it from an elderly lady who was related to the original owners.
When they got it, the house had good bones. But it needed a lot of TLC, including a new roof, better drainage, work on the gardens, and work on the interior. We learned about the plants they had planted, the construction they had completed, and the little things that seemed strange to us when we moved in in 2007 but made perfect sense once they explained the situation that faced them in the 1990s.
We laughed about the house's quirks, such as the roof's tendency to attract nesting birds. Or, carrying the window air conditioners up from the cellar every June, and taking them down in October. One year, when Steve was mounting the air conditioner, he pushed too hard and the air conditioner went right out the window to the garden below!
We also talked about some of the same activities that our families had done, such as waiting for the bus when the kids were little, or going down to the river nearby to canoe. The house has mysteries like the outdoor hatch (anyone remember the history mystery from last year?) and the check stubs an electrician found in the attic crawlspace.
If you have a chance to talk with the previous owners of your house, do it! It's an opportunity to learn about the history of your house ... and pass down stories to the next family.