I came across Richard Mc Guire’s graphic novel “Here”, which sparked a sense of wonder and reflection regarding our house in France and my personal connection to it. The novel vividly portrays a corner of a room, encompassing a lively procession of moments, vacations, individuals, animals, biology, and geology – aspects that give significance to human existence. This inspired me to examine the meaning of home ownership.
When we purchased the house, my initial action was to remove any fittings left by the previous owners. It wasn’t just about meeting my personal standards; it was also driven by a desire to genuinely make the place my own. I aimed to imprint it with my style and personality. However, the question remains: does mere possession of a title deed and undertaking renovations make us the “true” owners of a house?
Our stone house, built in the early 1900s, witnessed a succession of mostly women owners, often widowed or single, each leaving their unique mark on its appearance and character. The house was also generously donated to female family members on multiple occasions, securing their future and preserving the property’s legacy within the same family.
The house has undoubtedly been a witness to countless lives, events, moments, births, and even deaths. Through my research, I discovered that two individuals, former owners of the property, a man and a woman, chose to pass away within the house. Initially, this thought frightened me, considering the presence of death in the very space I’m trying to infuse with life. However, I have since made peace with it. After all, isn’t death an inherent part of life? On a more uplifting note, I also uncovered that children born in the 1940s and 1950s enjoyed a long life within the property, creating a sense of balance.
“ … if your house was built for others, perhaps before you were born, countless parallel scenes will have taken place, beforehand, just as they will continue after you are gone…”Richard Mc Guire’s ‘Here’, The New York Times, Lucy Santa, Oct. 2015
The house goes beyond being a witness to human existence within its walls. It also bears witness to events beyond its boundaries, such as the gradual downsizing of the village population from 1,000 to 300 inhabitants over the years. It experienced the profound impact of the First World War, with the local community enduring the heartbreaking loss of young soldiers. Additionally, it holds the remarkable story of a local farming family who aided three American parachutists in hiding from German soldiers, who were prevalent in the nearby village.
The way I see it, the house embodies a rich tapestry of experiences, connections, and stories that transcend time and ownership. It stands as a true testament to the passage of time, resilience in the face of challenges, and the inevitable changes that occur.
As I continue my journey with this house, I am reminded of the profound role we play in preserving its legacy for future generations. I realise that I am just one link in a chain of individuals connected to its history. Despite our differences, we all share a common bond – a resolute commitment to preserving this house. We are not mere tenants; we are the guardians entrusted with its care. We are fragments in its life, contributing to its continued existence.