I recently had a reader find a picture of a gift I made using the wood I found in this story. He reached out because the company printed on the wood was his family’s company. It reminded me how powerful things that connect us to our family can be. This story, originally shared over three years ago, was such a beautiful day for me. And maybe, suggests that my love for junk was always in my blood.
Since there are so many new friends and readers here, I thought I would share it again.
These are my Paternal Grandparents.
I never met them, they died years before I was born.
This is the house in Connecticut that my Grandfather built bit by bit for a summer cottage for their family.
Last Sunday, we (me, hubby, sister, girls and Dad) went up there.
I had not been since I was a kid.
Doesn’t seem too bad from the front.
But, unfortunately, this is the back.
Although my Dad spent years trying to maintain it, after a certain point it reached a point of no return.
Many many years ago, he rented it to someone who pretty much wrecked the place.
He had him legally removed since he wouldn’t leave on his own, but several more times he came back and stripped the place of anything he could.
Now, the town is requiring my father to take it down because of understandable liability reasons.
So we came with work gloves, tools and a trailer to take home as much as we could.
Look at the wood used for these walls.
It is cough drop crates taken apart.
Those came home with us.
This is one of three door my Grandfather built.
One was destroyed by water damage, one is in pretty good shape, but this one is still stunning and it is hard to believe it was built in the early 40’s.
This is my Dad showing us the spring that my Grandfather built, by hand without equipment. That cement was all hand mixed and poured and part of a complete water system he created that is surprisingly pretty much still intact.
To hear him talking about all of it with such pride was priceless.
The woods and the stream on the property are so lovely.
The girls came ready to work, but in the end they did exactly what I had hoped and exactly what I used to do when I was child there.
They climbed on logs, explored the woods, climbed the banks and even built a boat out debris to float down the creek.
They were dirty, disheveled and happy as can be.
This is the porch that my Dad helped build.
So much of the house was beyond salvage but this wall is one that we went for since the wood was so beautiful.
Imagine my incredible delight as we began pulling off the boards to find that many of them still had the printing from old crates on them.
Turns out my Grandfather built this house piece by piece. He worked for a newsstand company. When one was knocked down, he would take the wood and bring it here.
He would trade cigarettes for crates at the old A&P grocery store.
He would pull the crates apart, even saving and re-using the nails, and used them for the wood on the walls.
It was like he left us a gift.
My sister and I had such anticipation with each board we pulled off to see what would be on the other side.
And, maybe this explains my “junking sensibilities”.
Maybe it is something genetic, who knows?
One of the reasons I love “old” stuff is because the stories and the history behind them, in my opinion, make them even more interesting.
Add sentimental value to it and it is even better.
The ceiling of the porch was stunning, but in order to get any of it, the whole porch roof would have had to come down and everything was too unstable.
To have taken any of it home, although my Dad and hubby sure tried, would have just been beyond our abilities and just too dangerous.
So, a picture of the beautiful texture is what I took away instead.
As the day started to close, I found myself feeling sad. It seemed kind of silly, I haven’t been here since I was kid and I never even met my Grandparents.
But it is still my history, and it is certainly my Dad’s history. He spent his childhood summers here.
As we were leaving I asked him if he was sad.
He said at this point he is so looking forward to the relief of the burden of worrying about something happening there. After all of these years, he is finally ready to let it go. The house will be knocked down in the next few weeks and he will put the land on the market.
The good news is that the neighbors came down while we were there and they may be interested in buying the property.
In the end, we left with a lot.
Some “stuff” that will made into new “treasures” for our family.
But, mostly great memories of a day with our Dad, a better understanding of our family history and new memories of a house that had been so long neglected.
Oh yeah, and as you can see, height does not run in my family!
Update: a few weeks later my Dad showed up with a whole bunch of wood from the porch ceiling. He was there when they tore it down and brought the pieces he could to me. He knows the way straight to my heart.
Another Update – If you would like to see what we have made so far with what we brought home with us..
And the tree that brought it all back together – Handmade Gifts
Thanks for reading!