Sunday, August 23, 2009

Did it look at you? Did the fire look at you? It did.

On Friday, Chris and I and the kids picked up Anna and Lucy and 4 of our kids' friends for an afternoon of swimming at my mother-in-law's pool. As we approached her street, we could see that the street was blocked by firetrucks, ambulances and police cars and smoke was pouring from the house next door to hers. We had to turn around and approach the house from another direction and got there in time to see the firemen putting out the fire in the house. It didn't look like a horribly bad fire, but the fireman said the the entire structure will have to come down and that if it weren't made of brick it would have burned to the ground.

The women that lived in the home have lived in that house for many years. They were retired school teachers that never married and lived together for at least 40 years, probably more. Probably they lived together their entire lives. They are pretty old--late 70s, early 80s.

When Chris was a little boy, they were mean to him and the other children in the neighborhood. They would take the children's balls and toys. They would complain about all the noise that the children made. They would complain about children riding bikes on the sidewalk in front of their house. They would complain about cars parking in front of their house. Just a few weeks ago, a friend of mine parked in front of their house when they came swimming with us and the old woman turned her sprinkling system on so she would get wet. As they have gotten older, they haven't really gotten any nicer.

I still feel bad for them. What a sad thing to lose everything you have including all your photos and mementos. One of the sisters had all of her things that she wanted to be buried with stacked on the foot of her bed. Chris' parents have told me all along that these sisters are heirs of some famous Rackham man. The genealogist in me started to research. Horace Rackham was the attorney who incorporated Ford Motor Company. He scraped together $5000 to buy 50 shares of stock in 1903 and was elected to the board of directors of the company. He was able to retire from his law practice in 1913 and then in 1919 he sold his stock to Edsel Ford for $12.5 million. He was a great philanthropist during the remainder of his live donating the land which the Detroit Zoo is on, Rackham Golf Course in Huntington Woods, and many great donations to the University of Michigan. He died in 1933.

This man was the great uncle of the sisters. I don't know how much, if any, of his fortune that they have inherited. I don't know why they never married and had families of their own. I can't help but wonder if their loneliness has contributed to their outward meanness to others. Or if their outward meanness has pushed others away and contributed to their loneliness. In any case, what a terrible destroyer fire is. This experience has given me cause to reflect on the fact though I have many possessions and cherished keepsakes, the things I love the most aren't things at all. They are the people who share my life.

1 comment:

Buddhakan said...

Jennifer, I would be grateful if you would contact me to give me more information on this fire. My grandmother was Horace Rackham's first cousin and I got many tales about him and his fortune from her as a child. I would appreciate any further information for my own genealogical file on my Rackham relatives.

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