The Mill

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Some people have a sensitivity to houses. A predisposition to appreciate, respect and mourn them, too.

My family, for reasons too complicated and confusing to explain, is selling my grandfather's house in Connecticut. He and my grandmother bought it in the seventies, a 1747 saw mill that was in desperate need of someone to love it. They converted it into a home together, a true feat of inspiration and ingenuity. They both loved and lived and died there. It was, simply put, a full house.
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Late last month, my mom, sister and I spent the weekend gathering things and saying goodbye. The dining table held a feast of Chinese food (like so many before) and we sipped hot and sour soup from mugs because the house had no bowls left. Fortunes were told and immediately forgotten.
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When my grandfather was alive, my mom would wake up early and make omelets on a cast iron skillet. Green peppers, mushrooms, onions, whatever suspect block of cheese my grandfather had in the fridge. They'd always set a plate for my grandmother at the table, even though she died 15 years before. Things like that, they stay.
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When my grandfather would greet you at the door, he'd offer the same drinks. Heineken, V-8, seltzer and ginger ale. On repeat. For 20 years. I've charted my life stages though my drink choices. A fire would be going in the small fireplace (it was a double-sided charmer, placed right at the entry). He'd order a greek pizza and that was that. 
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We rifled around old photos in the morning with our coffees and I had the distinct feeling that with the sale of the house, I was losing people I never had. And losing again people I had already lost. (This was the hardest part.)
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When the time came, it rained. We loaded up my aunt's truck, hillbilly style, with the most meaningful and special things to drive back down to my place in the city. I put a little cup of bleeding hearts and forget-me-nots on the dash and drove away.

When the house's final remnants were sold, yard sale style, I was 2000 miles away in Portland. I cried that morning, and loudly. Now I feel a bit more at peace, the new owner will take possession this week and I hear she loves the place. A good thing too, it deserves to be loved.

95 comments:

  1. A wonderful and also a sad post!!
    strength, and keep the good memories alive !!

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  2. You're a beautiful storyteller, both in words and pictures, and what a gorgeous old home that is.

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  3. yes, Amy, i am one of those people. we had a house like this in our lives, i lived in as a teenager. my parents finally had to sell after living there for 21 years because it was too much for them to take care of as they grew older. it was set on 2.9 acres near the river and i spent about 11 hours near the closing date taking pictures of every nook and cranny of it so that i would remember it and the way it was when we/they lived there. i made a present of a book of those photos for my parents. the mill looks like a wondrous place. i feel your heartbreak. greek pizza is the best. :) love the pics of you and micha.

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  4. A beautiful tribute. It looks like a house with incredible character.

    Last year my family sold the house I grew up in and my parents lived in and loved for nearly 45 years. "Home" to me, always. I felt rootless. I mourned.

    Now 3000 miles away in another country, I have come to understand the saying that you need to make a home wherever you are, with the people you love. Saying goodbye and mourning made me more than ever want to create my own home and truly inhabit it. To renew, refresh. I still miss that old, beautiful house, though.

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  5. exquisite...there is nothing more powerful than love of place

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  6. As hard as those emotions are to handle, you've documented it beautifully through photos and words.

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  7. It must have been really hard so say goodbye to such a lovely place...

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  8. Such a touching post. Homes are so much more than shelter, especially if one's childhood was spent going through the ups and downs of adolescence within it. You have my sympathy. Sending comforting thoughts your way.
    xo

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  9. This made my heart (and stomach) hurt. My family is currently going thru my grandfather's belongings in order to sell his house, as well. I share so many similar memories. My grandmother used to offer me a strawberry hard candy every time I visited. She's been dead for 6 years, and I still can't see that candy without getting teary-eyed.

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  10. These thoughts ring so true within my family right now. With the passing of my grandfather just 2 weeks ago, my family is in the process of clearing out his home of 50+ years, and the home in which my mom & aunt spent their childhoods. While his home was nothing quite so spectacular as your grandfather's home, the sting is just as great. All those memories that come to the surface when you step foot inside. The feeling of time passing. Life becoming more and more humbling.

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  11. It's the finality of it that is the hardest to me...that it's all over, except for the memories and the traditions. When we had to sell my grandparent's home, I felt almost as if I was betraying them. But then I realized that it's a new generations turn to love their home and create new memories...it was hard though.
    I would have taken and loved their home in a heartbeat, it's amazing. Remember it always.
    Sarah

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  12. Beautiful, as always. This, combined with a recent quote from Elizabeth Antonia of "What is now will never always be" or something to that degree. It's a hard pill to swallow when you desperately want to keep, hold, and capture all those things of the past that we hold dear. It makes me yearn for my grandparents, their stories, their wisdom. So much do I want to go back and ask all the questions about Life that I have now, but I can't. We did the same at my grandfather's funeral --- went through all the photos and laughed, cried.

    Time marches on, even against all of our wills. The upside is that there is still amazing things to be had in your future. Right? [attempting to dwell on the positive]

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  13. It's an amazing place. I am sure the memories are equally amazing.

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  14. it's always so hard to put a loss like this into words, but you've done it beautifully. my grandmother has to sell her cottage this summer, a log cabin that used to be a ski-in chalet, and i feel like a bit of my heart is going to be torn out when we do. i spent all my summers there growing up, and it's still the most amazing, peaceful, and pure place that i know. i'm glad that someone understands the pain of the loss, even if it wasn't really mine to lose. <33

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  15. What a beautiful home, full of memories, the floorboards, the walls, the spiral stairwell...pity you had to sell, but that's life...it's like a closed chapter in your life. Take the memories and dwell on them often. I hear your heartache. Beautiful photos as always. Sharon

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  16. So sad and so beautiful. A very special post. Thank you. ox, Gina

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  17. What an incredible home, made more so by the fact that your Grandparents made it into a home.
    So sad to loose it, so wonderful to have those memories.

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  18. beautiful words. sometimes i still look up my grandparents old house on google maps, just to see it again. even though the house is no longer a place for me to visit on holidays or weekend sleepovers, i have those memories. and those can never go away.

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  19. What an amazing place. I had a similar experience last year when my Nan's house was finally sold (after she'd live there nearly 60 years and my Grandfather had built the upstairs himself.) I still feel strange thinking I can never go back. if you're interested I wrote a comic about it here: http://makedo-and-mend.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/dragonflies-final-comic.html

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  20. What a gorgeous place. You have done a wonderful job with this post paying tribute to the space, and your memories there.

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  21. thank you for this beautiful post

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  22. What a home. these images are all so lovely and portray the emotions I'm sure you were feeling perfectly. I so hate that things like homes that we hold dear and are full of so much memory must be sold.

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  23. This is, hands down, the most beautiful post I've ever read. I have goosebumps. Thank you. Truly.

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  24. I cried for your loss as it is so simliar to ones I have experienced.

    I always look forward to your new posts - they evoke such powerful emotions.

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  25. what a beautiful and touching post, so many memories, it must be very hard to say goodbye.

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  26. This is so lovely and touching. Thank you for sharing it. I would love to have a hardcover book of your pictures and stories. They are all so much more than blog posts. I treasure them each time they arrive in my inbox.

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  27. poignant, raw, heartfelt and touching. i can't imagine what you're going through.

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  28. What a beautiful, beautiful home. How lucky for you to have experienced life in it, and for the next owners to create their own stories too.

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  29. I got chills when I read this. Your grandparents' spirits are still alive in this place. The house is just singing with their energy. So beautiful......

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  30. What a beautiful house. I have recently gone through the same thing when my Grandmother passed away in April, it was nowhere near as lovely looking as this, but held so many memories. Thank you for sharing.

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  31. WOOOOOW! What an incredible house!!! Oh man, I want it! And such beautiful pictures! Well captured.

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  32. This truly breaks my heart.
    I'm one of those people too... A house is more than bricks and a roof above your head, it's a place full of memories, laughter and sometimes tears.

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  33. How sad to have to say goodbye to such a beautiful house with such amazing memories! You have such a beautiful way of telling stories. We still have the family house in Germany and whilst it will be sad when it eventually gets sold, it has been practically been sitting empty for 10 years since my grandmother died. I just love reading your blog by the way, it's always very exciting when I see a new post popping up! x

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  34. In the midst of wedding madness this was a lovely, bittersweet post to read.♥

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  35. Wow, so many other people have said the same thing, but what a lovely story.

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  36. ..."...I was losing people I never had. And losing again people I had already lost." Perfectly spoken. *goosebumps*

    ...A house maybe just a house; a thing even, but a home is a dwelling with soul.

    ...Your photos speak volumes. Thank you for sharing the loveliness! :o)

    ...Blessings

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  37. A charming place with lovely and charming memories well shared. I'm feeling nostalgic for a place and people I've never known. Hold the memories dear and close.

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  38. Beautiful pictures and beautiful house.
    But one day, you will have one day a house of yourown, that you will fill with your memories.
    I think about that when I look at the photos my father took of his home when he was a kid. It was a huge XVIIIth c. house with a large garden, white facade with grey "ardoise "tiles. Big enough for the 12 children (yes, 12)of the family. When the house was sold in 1971, I was 5 so I can't remember it well, but when I look at the pictures the nostalgia hits me fully. Especially as I know that the house doesn't exist anymore. It has been pulled down in order to build a huge residence with many appartements...

    I particularly LOVE the picture of the letters (with the adress !) and the family pictures, as a pêle-mêle.
    Bravo. Go on like that!
    Elena (from Paris)

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  39. How lucky you were, what an honour for your feet - those floor boards. I have always felt the thickness of spirit in everything, in all the houses and flats I've ever stayed in. Some wrap themselves around us more than others, hope you feel more peace soon!

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  40. Oh this post is moving.
    Your pictures did justice to this beloved house: You made me love it too, and for a second i daydreamed i was the owner-to-be... Sure it's a house that carries love to itself. I love it, i loved your pictures, and i love that your post made me write this comment. Sending you all my wishes to build such a beloved place and life too***

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  41. I know this feeling too. Touching post.

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  42. Oh gosh, my heart broke for you. What a gorgeous place to let go of.

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  43. This post is so special- but even more special for me, simply a viewer, is that I've past this home several times on drives with my Husband.

    It's amazing. Truly amazing, to know the story behind it.

    Eat Cake

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  44. what a beautiful home... that must have been so incredibly painful - for all of you. great memories though :)

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  45. Oh, I'm so sorry! The flowers on your dashboard tell the tale: bleeding heart, but forget you not. Thank you for sharing the memories with us!

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  46. Just...beautiful. Thank you for creating something so special, as you deal with pain.

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  47. My business awhile is with different trees,
    Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,
    And such as is done to their wood with an axe—
    Maples and birches and tamaracks.
    I wish I could promise to lie in the night
    And think of an orchard's arboreal plight
    When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
    Its heart sinks lower under the sod.
    But something has to be left to God.
    Robert Frost
    XX

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  48. How this reminded me of Emily Dickinson's The bustle in a house..."solemnest of industries Enacted upon earth--The sweeping up the heart, And putting love away"... And you shared it so beautifully, just as we knew you would.

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  49. Extremely touching story! And the house looks so beautiful. But it's also amazing how you dealt with the whole thing. It is important to love things and then know when to let them go, so that they can be loved by someone else. Here's to the house you will be making full!

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  50. WOW! My heart broke when I read this beautiful post. Those of us who had special grandparents are sooooooo lucky. The memories are the most wonderful gifts. Keep up the great work and thank you for sharing.

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  51. I know far too much the feeling. Hope you are holding up.

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  52. My throat's as knotted up as those beautiful weathered floor boards. Hugs to you.

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  53. Damn, what a moving tribute.

    "... I was losing people I never had. And losing again people I had already lost."

    I feel this every time I leave my late Grandparents home. Every time.

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  54. A few years ago, my grandparents gave away their beloved house on top of Tute Hill, where most of my most treasured memories lived. I know the feelings that you so beautifully described. I just found your blog last night, and throughout my visits to the computer today, I made it all the way to early 2009 in your archives. Your voice, your eye, your talent... so inspiring! I have a huge friend crush on you now.

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  55. What an eloquent and fitting eulogy. Hugs all around.

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  56. I have your site pinned, i love reading your words and your flowers and style are stunning.
    This post is a beautiful and fitting tribute. The house is amazing, but more so, the memories and the tiny details are the most amazing. Thanks so much for sharing. You have a beautiful tone and writing style. Thanks.

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  57. That sort of pain and loss is one I have a hard time understand. I've lived a total of 19 different houses and apartments throughout my 23 years and so I never had the time to get attached to a building. The closest to that I've come was when they finally tore down my grandparents' camp. It was just an old trailer with add-ons that my grandpa and father had built over the years and it really needed to go, but it still felt like a major loss even though I was never there anymore. It's all the memories tied to the place, and the knowing that it won't be a place for you to make more memories in anymore.

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  58. My family and I are currently going through this process with my parents house. Our family home which feels like a member of the family itself. That we are blessed with the memories is a wonderful gift. But, the process of letting go is bittersweet.
    Thank you for sharing something so personal.

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  59. you are truly a beautiful writer (you have a very down-to-earth (though still romantic) voice, that really cuts through and affects you). i'm sorry to hear about the house, but thank you for sharing!

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  60. Ok, I am wiping my tears right this moment, as I just finished reading your story. It's heartbreaking to say good-bye to the past, especially since this house was big part of your childhood memories.
    The place where my grandparents lived until they died is no longer existing. All that is left of the house is a ruin of it's chimney and an overgrown orchard of apple & pear trees in a long-forgotten little village in Ukraine.
    I am glad to hear the saw mill house is in good hands! Thank you so much for sharing the beautiful photos and the story.

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  61. The Mill was the very best of both of your grandparents. His logic. Her vision. Together they created something so unique and powerful. If you listen, you can hear the waterfall even now. Whispering love and gratitude back to you for this tender tribute.

    They are welcoming you to put your feet up.
    Have a Seltzer. Surround yourself with the simplicity of wood, stone, glass, water.
    Savor their tales, treasures.

    The Mill will always be within you. It helped you grow into who you are now. Helped you touch us with it's legacy. Touched our own hearts and hearths... far and wide.

    Rumor has it, the new owners have caught trout on their very first cast. AND the teenage boys kayaked OVER THE WATERFALL!

    New life fills the priceless place.
    We can smile through our tears.

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  63. This post brought tears to my eyes...I've been reading your words for a while now and your nostalgia for your past and your family's past really hits home for me. I went through the same feelings when my Grandfather sold my Mother's childhood home...he had built it (dug the foundation by hand in the 1940's) himself and I had been visiting that house since I was born. So many amazing memories, but more than that...I could feel the lives of those before me inside those walls...my Mom and her two sisters as teenagers rushing down the hall before a night out...ohhh I miss that house. I drive by it when I visit Portland, OR and I can still hear their voices...once the pain fades away, you'll be able to do that too.

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  64. Aw, Amy, breaks my heart for you and your family. What a positively *magical* place. There's no salve for the wounds of a broken heart like that, but have faith that sometime, somewhere you'll carve out your own little kingdom and have your own granddaughters racing around collecting armloads of goldenrod and baskets full of crabapples. You can never replace your grandparent's beautiful, soul-nourishing place, but one day *you* will make your own place, and what a place it will be.

    (And Elmwood will welcome you with creaky, comforting, old New Hampshire arms when next you head up north.)

    xo.

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  65. Wow what a place. I understand why you had a broken heart.

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  66. It's reassuring for you to know that the new owner loves the place and therefore will look after the place well. I can empathise regarding your sadness, we can't always keep everything dear to us in life. It may be a good idea to visit your grandfather's house in a year or couple of years time to consolidate your feelings and you may feel stronger about moving on too, regarding for sadness.
    Best wishes and take care.
    Polly

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  67. I'm with Polly, I'm sure The Mill will be very loved by it's new owners, and your memories will last forever, what a beautiful place.
    I also just saw your studio on Brian's blog ... WOW WOW WOW !!!!!

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  68. Wow... you've captured so perfectly the bittersweetness of losing a place- no matter how much you tell yourself that it isn't the place but the people and memories that lived there once live in you, there are sensory things, tiny, almost unknown memories that molded you into who you are now.

    This reminded me of the Elizabeth Bishop poem "One Art"- "The art of losing isn't hard to master...I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or/next-to-last, of three loved houses went./The art of losing isn't hard to master."

    http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15212

    lovely.

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  69. Well said and thoughtful images. You are an empathic soul.

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  70. I'm going through the same thing and it hurts like hell. I've always thought of our house as a member of the family, and letting go is so hard. Your words and images are profoundly beautiful and moved me to tears. Here's to creating our own nests where we can create memories like the ones we cherish. xo

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  71. my heart goes out to you amy. this is truly a sad, but beautiful post. i hope the new owners will make a life here too and add their memories to your grandparents time there.

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  72. Big hug from your french fan club in Paris !!
    I understand you.

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  73. seeing the photos now, after the fact, makes me hurt. that house is incredible. and the stories even better, i'm sure. xo

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  74. How do you manage an interesting blog like this? I really enjoyed this one. You've got an amazing blog. More power to you:-)

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  75. The photos are so beautiful!! I like the story you tell as well. Great blog definitely following!

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  76. This post was so touching in so many ways. I have tears in my eyes. So moving, simple and beautiful. What a tribute.

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  77. I'm not exactly sure why I didn't read this post when you first published. I think it's because I didn't have time to really invest in the reading and I knew it was important. So I saved it for today... glad I waited. This was incredibly special to read. I can't imagine saying goodbye to my grandmothers home. It's as much a part of her personality as anything! I photographed and featured it on my blog as well. Now, it will be remembered for years after it's days with us are done. Thank you for sharing this intimate and surely difficult experience with us here!

    http://hilaryinspired.com/2012/01/05/style-story-ada-smith/

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  78. I married in to a family mill like this in woodstock, ny; my in-laws gather there every summer. This summer is the first in many years my husband won't be able to visit, we are saving money for our own house. I hope it will always be there for us. If it can't be, I hope it is always filled with people who love it. Your post was like a visit, thank you for sharing it.

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  79. Your family seems to have a lot of good memories in that house. I know that feeling too, forcing yourself to let go and welcome the new chapter of your life without the people you’ve always been with. I’m sorry about the house. It’s still in good shape. I hope those who bought the personal belongings of your grandparents would take care of it as much as you have.

    <a href="http://www.livecarringtoncove.com/”>Christian Traughber</a>

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  80. Hi Amy. I just stumbled over here. I've never read your blog before. It is really amazing to me how one can just stumble right upon the heart of someone like this. This is such a lovely and touching post that it brought tears to this strangers eyes. Thank you for sharing.

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  81. What a beautiful ode to this home. I'm sorry that you had to say goodbye to it. Growing up, my family and I spent summers at our beach house, a house that was built by my grandparents. A few years ago, we had to say goodbye. It's still hard knowing I will never spend another summer at that home ever again. But I have my wonderful memories.

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  82. it is amazing how houses absorb the lives lived below their roofs and between their walls. it is as if a house alone is an archive.

    thanks for sharing this! it is beautiful and inspiring and between the sadness of losing a house and the people associated with it there is the glimmer of hope that comes with a new owner that has fallen in love with the history's size, shape and history.

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  83. What a wonderful tribute to the life of your grandfather. Thanks for sharing.

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  84. That house is so beautiful... this was lovely to read.

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  85. My family recently sold my grandparents house and I never got to go back one more time and say goodbye. It was the house we all grew up in and not a day goes by that I don't think about it and mourn- It breaks my heart. People seem to not understand what it feels like to be so attached to a house but it's good to know someone gets what I mean. It looked like a beautiful, loved house.

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  86. Without words from your blog, I could still tell that was a house built on love, and filled with it too. Homes like that deserve a history book. I've always thought it a good idea to include a little bit of history in photos when a old home is sold. If the new owner appreciates and adds to the history book, they are worthy of having the home. Too bad more homes couldn't be treated like that.

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  87. This houses deserve to be loved, so beautiful and full of stories, I can see why selling it made you sad, i would feel the same.

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  88. Your blog is outstanding; the matter is something that not many people are talking intelligently about. I’m very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.sell my house

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