I was out in my front yard one evening this summer and noticed a car driving by real slow. It got my attention as I try to be observant and aware. As it got closer I noticed it was a couple of little old ladies staring at me. They drove around the block and came by again sizing me up as either a friend or foe.
The second time coming by they decided to pull over and get out. One of the women was on crutches (not the broken leg kind, but the aluminum ones with the arm cuffs). They came up to me and said that the woman with the crutches grew up in my house. She lived on the first floor with her parents. Her aunt and uncle lived on the second floor throughout the 40's and 50's. The other woman, who was behind the wheel, was a high school friend of hers who now lives in St. Louis Hills.
I invited her in to show her the work I had done on the place. Since I completely gutted the house before moving in I didn't think she'd recognize much. She loved the condition the place was in and pointed out things like which room was hers. She also recognized these 2 massively heavy armoires that came with the house. She said that her Dad bought them for $5 each. They are both beautiful cross cut oak and would be worth hundreds today. She had polio and told me about how her Dad would lift her in and out of the tub a couple times a day and that she got bumped out of her room and had to move her bed to the hall when her cousin moved in with them.
She mentioned she went to Roosevelt High School, which is where my mother-in-law went. She recognized the name and it turned out she graduated with my wife's Uncle. She said he was very handsome (a very difficult thing to imagine now), and that he was a little odd back then (he's a lot odd now and is rarely seen by the family since he lives in Germany).
She now lives in Washington, D.C. and her husband is a retired diplomat and they did a lot of world traveling. She doesn't get back to St. Louis very often, but was happy I happened to be in the yard because they wouldn't have had the guts to knock on the door.
I think she told me her name when she first pulled up, but I'm terrible with names and it felt rude to ask again before she drove off.
Fast forward to 2 weeks ago. There is a young woman pacing around on the corner near my house smoking a cigarette. I pull up with my son and am getting him out of his car seat when she walks up and asks me if I live here, pointing unfortunately to my house. I noticed right away she was missing a front tooth and had a black eye. I reluctantly said...yes, imagining her pulling a gun, forcing me into my house to rob me or steal my baby.
She said she lived in the house for 16 years in the 80's and 90's. She was embarrassed about the black eye and missing tooth but was trying to get a friend off drugs who wasn't cooperating. Unfortunately I had a tired and sick baby in my arms and had to cut it short. As she was walking away I asked her name and she said "Jennifer".
Yesterday I get a poinsettia delivered. The card said: "Thank you so much for letting my friend and I visit your home which was my home from grade 6 through college. What lovely changes you have made and how nice it is to know your lovely family lives there." And it was signed "Jenny Bergsten".
It seemed odd that 2 woman approached me about living in my house. One named Jenny and one named Jennifer. I had to remember to tell my wife, Jen, about that.