Scenes from a Life - Good Ju-Ju

I spent the morning with six women who are all related to Ruth and her mother, Marie. They had contacted me after the Sunday News article was published.

After a series of phone calls and email exchanges, I invited them to come and see the house, and to offer their perspective on this project of researching and writing about Ruth’s life.

When they walked in the front door, there was a collective gasp, and then laughter.

“Wow – it sure looks different!” one of them exclaimed.

Of course, they were still picturing the before version of our living room, with Marie’s green brocade chair, her narrow bookcase stuffed with letters, magazines and newspaper clippings, the grand old player piano, the vintage console tube radio, and the curio shelf filled with flowered porcelain cups and saucers.

Each of the women has distinct memories of being in this house over the years that Ruth’s mother, Marie, lived here. And the stories they shared about how this home was lived in and loved affirmed my intuition that there’s a good aura to this place, lots of positive energy. What my friend, Cass, would call “good ju-ju.”

The women told me that Marie was always taking care of someone in this house.

In the mid to late 1920’s, when Marie was a young newly-married woman and had a new baby (Ruth), she also took care of her father-in-law, Hymon Ehrhart, here in the house until his death in 1931.

In 1934, Marie’s mother, Maude Eshleman, sold her farm, divided the proceeds between her eight children, and moved into this house with Marie. Maude lived here with Marie for the next 30 years. Maude lost her vision and was blind during the last 20 of those years.

Marie’s niece, Sue, was one of the women who visited here today. She said that because Grandma Maude lived here with Aunt Marie for so many years, the grandchildren all thought of this as Grandma’s house.

When Marie’s sister-in-law, Jane, died, leaving Marie’s brother Frank with two young boys (Clair and Clayton) to raise, Marie invited her two nephews to come and live with her for long stretches of time.

Kathy, another of the women who visited here today, remembers her father, Clair, talking about the times he lived with Aunt Marie when he was a boy.

Even when she wasn’t taking care of family members, Marie took in and cared for other people from the community. Several of the women remembered that Marie took care of an elderly woman here in her home. Every time someone came here to the house to visit Marie, Marie asked them to first go upstairs and greet her elderly houseguest, as the woman had so few visitors and no family.

Gene, whose husband Clayton had also lived with Marie when he was a boy, said, “Marie was the hub of the family. Marie’s dining room was where we had so many family gatherings – after weddings and wakes and baptisms and all kinds of family occasions. We’d all come here to Marie’s house.”

As I sat here in that very same dining room with these members of Marie’s and Ruth’s family, I felt that positive energy flowing around and through all of us.

Good ju-ju, indeed!

Posted by Melanie Tagged as: city life lancaster pa ruths story home renovation

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