A 93-year old woman paid a visit to our home recently. For the past 71 years, she has treasured a photo of our house, taken in 1945, when she was a young bride. Her new husband was an Army Air Forces pilot and flew a B-17 bomber. He'd been shot down during a mission over Berlin, and spent over a year in a German prison camp. When he was released, they married in North Carolina just before he was ordered to San Antonio for debriefing. She came here with him on what she calls their “extended honeymoon,” and they lived for seven weeks in a rented bedroom of what is now our home.
She nearly refused to get on a plane to make the long trip to San Antonio from her home in North Carolina with her daughter and son-in-law for a vacation. She finally agreed only because she’d get a chance to drive by this old house again. She had no idea that her daughter had researched the name of the current owner and arranged with me for a visit inside. At first she couldn’t understand that I knew who she was and that I was expecting her. Then she smiled a huge smile and was led into the house, holding back tears as she crossed the threshold. At the top of the stairs she again choked back tears when she saw the front bedroom that she had once rented. She explained that there had been a small sink just to the left of the door as you entered. “I know," I said, “I remember the pipes.” But the sink was long gone. She insisted that the room had been bigger, and she was right. Laura and I added closets on one side of the room, which also hid the new AC ducts and a door that led to a back bedroom. “That door was always locked,” she said.
When she lived here the house was already 50 years old. As she put it, it was “really rough!” But none of us in the room could mistake the thrill in her voice as she gazed from the bedroom window, transported back to 1945, and described looking out every morning to watch as her husband walked away to catch his bus to the base.
- John Hartman