I stood there in the cool parlor, staring at the photograph of Robert Frost sitting in his Morris chair next to the old coal stove.

I looked back and forth from the photo to the actual scene before me — the stove to my left, a pantry of shelves and the door to the foyer.

It was a strange and exhilarating sensation, being in the Franconia, N.H., house where Frost lived from 1915 to 1920 and for 18 summers thereafter.

This poet of my childhood, whose voice I can still hear reciting poems on a scratchy old record I listened to over and over, slept, ate and wrote here.

He wandered the pasture and woods, tended to animals in his barn, and slept in the bed upstairs. He wrote poetry at his desk in the parlor, and in warmer weather, on the porch overlooking the mountains.

I sat on that porch Sunday after visiting the village of Franconia and Dow Academy, where my grandfather, Harold Rowell, was principal many years ago, and where my mother attended first and second grades. Frost often visited my grandfather there.

It is a place I’ve always wanted to see, but never took the time. The academy has been transformed into condominiums, but its exterior looks much the same as it did early in the century. I spoke to a man who lives there with his family and regularly winds the old tower clock.

Frost’s house on Ridge Road is now a museum and conference center people may visit for a small donation. We were allowed to wander in the few rooms of the house open to the public. A poet-in-residence was living in the part closed off, we were told.

It is a simple white farmhouse built in 1859, kept as it was in Frost’s day, sparsely furnished with a few pieces from the period.

In a glass case in the parlor are some of Frost’s books and letters, as well as one of my favorite Frost poems, “Acquainted With the Night,” written in his own hand. My heart stopped when I saw a hand-written letter from Frost to “Mr. Rowell,” thinking it may have been to my grandfather, but it was not.

It was a letter to Frost’s grandfather’s lawyer, who lived in Lawrence, Mass., and who was handling the sale of the farmhouse to Frost, for just more than $1,000. Frost’s letter, dated May 31, 1915, urges Rowell to complete the deal.

I climbed the stairs and entered Frost’s bedroom, a small room with a slanted ceiling, his bed and one window, with an exquisite view of the mountains and blue sky.

Did he dream here? I wondered. Did he wake in the night, tiptoe down the stairs while his family slept and pen his works?

It was a hot, humid day Sunday and the Poetry Society of New Hampshire was meeting in the barn. We wandered over to a trail behind the house that winds a quarter-mile through the woods. Plaques bearing Frost’s poetry are posted along the trail. It was cool in the woods and quiet, except for the chirping of an occasional bird and the sound of the wind in the trees.

Back at the house, 21-year-old Lily Ringler sat on the porch, writing on a laptop. A recent Dartmouth College graduate working at the Frost Place for the summer, Ringler was pleasant and accommodating.

We chatted about the house, Frost’s love of the mountains, the people who visit. Sensing our particular enthusiasm for being there, she relaxed policy to give us a tour of the parts of the house closed off to the public.

The living room, with a red-painted floor, large stone fireplace and upright piano, was adjacent to a small kitchen where Frost and his family shared meals. Upstairs, we glimpsed his children’s rooms — small and simply furnished. I was delighted to discover the architecture was much like that of the house in which I grew up.

I felt privileged to be afforded a private view into the poet’s life. How sweet, after having spent a lifetime with his poems reverberating in my head, from the time I was too small to read, right into my adulthood.

It is difficult for me now to determine where Frost’s poetry stopped and reality began in my childhood. We climbed birch trees in my father’s field and then rode them down to the ground, just as the narrator in the poem, “Birches,” did. In our playtime, we imagined being the sleigh driver in “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” a Frost poem that was the inspiration for a painting my father did that now hangs in my home.

It’s all mixed together in my head, Frost’s poetry and my past and present life. The memory is all the more delicious, now that I’ve visited his former home.

There are other Frost houses, in Derry, N.H., Shaftsbury, Vt., and Dearborn, Mich. I hope to visit them all before I die. What lovely journeys to contemplate.

Amy Calder has been a Sentinel reporter 23 years. Her column appears here Saturdays. She may be reached at [email protected]

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