A whimsical story imagining life in the Victorian era...
By Laura Frazeur
The Lund- Hoel House
Two boys scampered mischievously through a maze of clean laundry. The breeze whipped the delicate white linen against the clothes lines. A maid hummed quietly to herself, her mouth full of clothespins. The boys waited until she had finished hanging a large sheet, then crept past her.
They sneaked quietly to the barnyard beyond the lawn, and snickered to each other as they crossed the muddy yard to an especially dirty puddle, left by last night's rain. They glanced around for on-lookers, then the youngest, Omer, handed a rug beater to his older brother, Marius. The boy handled it delicately, then stooped and placed it on the mud. He ground it deeper into the sludge with the toe of his boot, and picked it up gingerly by the worn handle.
They proceeded back across the lawn, holding the rug beater far away from their neat clothes. They reached the laundry. Omer looked around again, then nodded to his brother. Marius stood like a man at bat and swung the rug beater on to the fresh sheets. They giggled and took turns swinging the rug beater on to the newly washed whites for the rest of the afternoon.
A few hours later, the maid returned to find her beautifully clean laundry spattered liberally with mud, the dirty rug beater left on the lawn for her to clean up. She quit the next day, leaving her wages and her troublesome masters far behind.
Omer and Marius Hoel grew up in the historic Lund- Hoel house, a museum in Canby. The dark green paint and white trim stand out against the modern painted buildings. The stone fence and iron gate screen the estate from the street. The old vegetable garden sits in the backyard shaded by the massive Linden, planted over a hundred years ago.
The house has seen many children born. Many deaths happened in those walls. It has had over a hundred years to see and hear and understand, over a hundred years to pass on that wisdom to those who have visited. The house taught me many lessons in my time there as a tour guide last summer, often with a sense of humor.
On my first day I sat alone in the pristine living room floor, too afraid to take a seat on the ancient furniture. Warm sunlight filtered through stained glass windows and lace curtains. The house stood quiet, but the silence didn't seem overpowering. It felt as though silence itself was respectful, awed by the beauty and grace of this house. In fact, it felt almost too quiet. I looked around uneasily, wondering for the first time in my life if ghosts were real. I wandered through to the dining room, faking nonchalance, and gently touched the delicate china on the table. From there I ambled through the hall, looking around, a bit paranoid. I started to walk up the stairs when I heard it; the whisper of a breeze. It swirled through the house, rustling papers in the office, swinging the creaky door to the bathroom, sighing through the narrow pantry. I froze, too scared to move.
"Hello?" I called weakly. The wind continued its tour, shifting the table cloth on the kitchen counter, running past the dining room table, through the quiet living room to the front door, where suddenly WHAM! The front door shut with a bang, and I darted fearfully through to the peaceful living room, to spend the rest of the day looking around me fearfully.
The next day I returned to the living room, extremely afraid but determined not to show it. I edged my way across the room to the piano, sat down on the ancient bench, and reached out to the keys. I pressed a chord out tentatively, cringed, and glanced around. Then I slowly started playing, the notes so quiet they could barely be heard. Right there, with the warm sunlight on my back, and a simple song in my ears and heart, I learned my first lesson: The ghosts you make for yourself seem more daunting than the ones you really meet. The house taught me this as it taught many others.
It was ten o'clock at night, and an oil lamp threw moving shadows around the upstairs hallway. The mystery door, placed in the wall above another door, was firmly shut as usual. All was quiet.
A young boy walked slowly down the hall, trying to avoid his bedtime. His parents had gone out of town. He had stayed alone with his sister, but he couldn't find her. He had just helped himself to a large, forbidden glass of lemonade. He froze in mid-step as a sound issued from the attic. A creak, a scuffle, then silence. He looked around cautiously. The hair raised on the back of his neck as the attic resonated with a blood curdling moan. Then he heard shuffling and looked up quickly to the mystery door.
The door stood open! He stood as though frozen in time, his eyes unable to move from the horrible darkness of the attic. Another moan filled the hall, then a scuffling, and suddenly a bright light flashed in his eyes and the door slammed shut! A quick scurry resounded through the upstairs as his sister, hiding in the attic, left him screaming in fright and wishing he hadn't had that glass of lemonade.
I sat playing the piano one day when I heard steps on the front porch. I had learned all the sounds of the house by then. I could hear the creak of the door from the bathroom that hung a bit crooked. I listened all day to the shifting of the American flag on the porch. I sensed the rumble of the dehumidifier in the basement, and the sweep of a dress upstairs next to the balcony door.
The sound of the front steps was the creak of a loose stair, and the scuffling of a shoe reaching up to the tall top step. I opened the screen door and a man and woman filed in to the narrow entry way. The man was tall and had a large stomach the protruded above his wrinkled khaki pants. He wore a polo shirt that had sweat marks all over. His round face was topped by a darkly dyed comb-over.
His wife was equally fat, but much shorter. She wore a flowery blouse and shorts that were a bit too tight. Her hair was curled too tightly and looked fake, like a wig. Still, she had a nice smile and she donated the change from her fee to the museum. I led them through the house pointing out various pieces of furniture and telling about the people who lived there.
It was 1921. Nella Hoel was sitting in her mother's parlor, but she wasn't alone. Andrew Burg, her beau, is next to her on the slippery horsehair love seat. They are quiet, waiting anxiously for Nella's father, Reverend Hoel. Finally, he came through the graceful double doors. He looked at his last daughter with a proud yet sad expression.
"Nella, are you sure?" He asked in Norwegian.
"Yes, father, I love him." She looked steadily into his eyes.
"Well, then, let's begin." He opened the door to Nella and Andrew, and Mrs. Hoel started to play a stately wedding march on the piano. Nella and her fiance stood in front the living room table, so familiar with its lamp and Norwegian bible in place. How many times Nella had passed this table, how many times she had seen other young couples married here when she was a girl. Now it was her turn.
I loved to tell that story. The couple approved of it as well. They shared a look and a smile, and the woman turned to me.
"Today is our anniversary. We stopped here twelve years ago on our honey moon."
"Yes," her husband continued, "And we spent three hours here. We didn't even mean to come back, but we saw you were open." They smiled at each other again. After twelve years their love was still as strong as it was when they were married.
I learned my second lesson: It doesn't matter what you look like, or what you're doing. Love is greater than anything.
The summer passed in a blur. Every day I learned something new. I felt sad when summer came to an end.
On my last day of work, I went up the front steps with a bittersweet feeling. I walked through the familiar rooms and said good bye to everything. I sat in the living room, watching the leaves fall and the sunlight shine on the harvested vegetable garden. My boss came in to pick up a few things, and we walked out together. I closed the gate quietly and looked up at the old house, sending it a final farewell, final thanks.
I wasn't afraid of my ghosts any more. I had learned about the importance of love and life and family. The house had taught me about respect and about the beauty of solitude. Yes, I had learned a great deal, but I would be back next year. I still have a lot to learn.
~penned by our tour guide, Laura Frazeur, for a school project
Many thanks to Laura for bringing our 'House' to life...