When living history comes knocking on your door … answer it

By Melanie Yingst

Sometimes the greatest stories happen when you least expect it.

And, oh boy, did I not expect this last batch of awesomeness over the Memorial Day weekend.

This past Memorial Day weekend I celebrated my son’s final day of sixth grade. And by celebrated, I gave him a hug and went into my room and cried that I’m now the mother of a kid in junior high.

With the school year behind us, the mounds of papers, books and thousands of hooded sweatshirts recovered from the bottom of a locker were strewn around my house.

With summer vacation in full swing, the 24-hour LEGO build was at full throttle and my son littered the living room floor with hundreds of plastic blocks from one side of the room to the other.

With my nephews in town, everyone was at Grandma’s house for the weekend. I could have spent the weekend cleaning, but instead, I stayed up late, watched movies and caught up on some work until the wee hours of the morning.

Early Sunday morning, I thought about going to church. Looking at the mess around the house, I decided to once again put off a Sunday service and clean up around the house.

Then came a knock on my door. Now that I live in the country, I don’t get many visitors other than my UPS guy, the occasional solicitor and people asking to hunt in the fall. So I looked out the window and saw a white van parked in my driveway. I recognized the lady at my back doorstep as my neighbor Shari. I threw on clothes and immediately went out to check on her thinking maybe she had car trouble or one of Evan’s lambs were on the loose.

Instead, I was greeted with a van full of Shari’s relatives and the unique reason for her unexpected visit.

Shari’s great-aunt Nettie, at the young age of 94 years-old, was with her. Shari quickly shared with me that Miss Nettie had once lived at my home years and years ago. It was a great shock as I’ve only known my own relatives to have lived at the property along with other neighbors.

The van door opened and I greeted aunts and cousins who were in town for the Sipe reunion at Shari’s home around the corner (a country corner, mind you). Miss Nettie shared how she remembered living at the Wilgus homestead and pointed out where the chicken coop was located and how my front lawn was fenced in with sheep. Another relative shared how she was born in my bedroom.

I had no idea.

I reluctantly, and I mean reluctantly, invited the visitors inside for a trip down memory lane. Never mind the clothes strewn about or the thousands of LEGO littered on the living room floor, Miss Nettie had traveled from Grand Rapids, Mich., and I wanted to hear more about the house that she remembered in her youth.

The most wonderful memory she shared was how she was married in my living room. She also shared how she had Home Economics class with my late grandmother Grace.

“She saved me in that class. I would have never passed that class without Grace as my partner — she was a great cook, I was not,” she said. My maternal grandmother had passed away before Megan and I were born, so this was a wonderful story to hear.

Miss Nettie also shared how my late maternal grandfather Norris had given her a ride to Bowling Green University. My grandfather loved to drive, but to know that he had helped someone get to school was another story to add to his memory. She also shared how she was in school with a great uncle, Howard, and how they were classmates and attended reunions together.

I called my mom after they left to share my eventful morning. Mom shared how it was Miss Nettie who was the reason my mother’s parents had met and were later married. Without Miss Nettie’s matchmaking skills, the family tree would have looked much, much different.

How cool is that?

While I stressed about my own lackluster homemaking skills, I was thrilled to know there has been a birth and a marriage in my home. These stories were thrilling and I am grateful they took the time to stop and share their memories.

On Thursday evening, Shorty began barking to announce someone had once again stopped in at the house. I looked out the window and saw the now familiar white van in my driveway.

I had joked with Shari that she owed me a plate full of her Miami County Fair blue ribbon fudge and a jar of her famous jam. In a blue bag, she gave me a jar of her crab apple jam for my (less than stellar) hospitality that weekend.

Yet, I owe her a big thank you for bringing some of my family’s history to my humble (and now very clean) homestead.


By Melanie Yingst

“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News. Why doesn’t anyone never stop at my house when it’s clean?

“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News. Why doesn’t anyone never stop at my house when it’s clean?