I was born in West Virginia and lived in Arkansas, Kansas, Idaho, and California. That was just to age 16; there were many other places I temporarily called home. When I was 36 years old and had been living in Maine for six years, I realized it was the place I'd lived the longest, and yet I wasn't from there. There's an old Maine joke that goes like this.
- Ah heah Jake died. Long pause.
- Ayuh. Long pause.
- How old wuz he? Long pause.
- Ninety-foah. Long pause.
- Wuz he a Mainer? Long pause.
- No. Cum here when he wuz one.
I didn't feel unwelcome in Maine, but I knew I was definitely not of that place. I longed for somewhere to really be from, a place to put down roots. A few years later I had the chance to come and live in Iowa, in Mount Vernon. I hoped it would be the place. . . and it certainly is! Thirty years later, I'm as happy an Iowan and Mount Vernoner as there is.
We bought a nice house in town and all was well. In the mid-nineties we received a letter saying the house had been added to the historical register. Well, that's nice! Later, the Ash Park Historic District was created and so we had a historic house in a historic district. In fact, there are THREE historic districts in Mount Vernon, and indeed its historical charm is what draws a lot of people to Mount Vernon: to live and to visit, to shop the antique stores, to attend the festivals, and to attend the College (itself one of the historic districts).
You know how you get busy at work. It wasn;t until after I retired that I really started to look at the house as historic. We had accumulated some "deferred maintenance" and as we gradually took care of it I began to appreciate the historic qualities of the house, like the French doors in our living room. The kicker came when a workman discovered another set of French doors which had been covered up to make a "den." The room had obviously started out with another function back in 1910. With these twin sets of doors in the two rooms and the adjoining house-width wide enclosed porch, I can imagine guests mingling in and out at a party in the 'twenties.
By this time I was also becoming aware of the many other historical houses in town. Last year my relatives came here from all over the country for a family reunion. I knew that one thing I wanted to treat them to was the historic aspect of Mount Vernon. At the Visitor's Center I picked up the guide to the Ash Park District and walked the route so as to prepare myself to guide my guests. I was amazed! Looking at the houses, and then reading the descriptions, and then back at the houses again to actually see what was there. . . it was exciting.
So now I'm a confirmed enthusiast of historical Mount Vernon. I walk all over town and realize there are many wonderful, well-kept old homes throughout the city as well as in the Ash Park district.
When I was 36, I didn't belong anywhere. Now I belong in Mount Vernon. What a great place.