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{January 12, 2015}   A Tiny House Story

rundown

Abandoned house

Anyone interested in what it is like to live in a tiny home? Not one that looks like this, I’m sure!

I’ve been reading about the Tiny House Movement for a while through Rowdy Kittens and other blogs, so when Chronicle did a special about tiny houses the other night, I had to watch it. I love the IDEA of living in your own tiny mobile space, and admire the people who follow through with it, but I don’t think I could do it (not without having a storage unit bigger than my house). 🙂

Much to my surprise, a few minutes of the show was dedicated to the narrowest house in Boston in the North End. I was transported back in time as I watched the segment; my friend, Danielle had lived there for a brief time in the 80s! She had a lovely summer garden party in the deceivingly large courtyard behind it.

I remembered her giving me the tour; she told me how often she caught people staring at the house. It is only 6 feet wide in one spot (as they show in the TV segment). There was one room on each floor (the second floor included the bathroom), so there wasn’t a lot of space, but the view was wonderful at the top! It looks out over Copp’s Hill Burial Ground and you can see the harbor (at least you could back in the 1980s when I visited). I was taking a poetry workshop at the time so I wrote a poem about it not long after Danielle’s party. I had to experiment with form and rhyme as an assignment, which I very rarely do these days.

It took a little digging to find my notebook from that time, but I thought I’d share the poem:

 

 Guided Tour

Into the narrowest house I was led,

half a hundred feet from where sea captains sleep,

up on the hill in their cold narrow beds.

I step up the narrow stairs, hollowed and steep,

the old wood worn smooth without sagging,

from hundreds of years, and sizes of feet.

On the second floor I’m chastised for lagging

behind to peer into the small bath and bedroom.

Up and around, I’m instructed, zig-zagging

Up to the living space, cozy as a womb,

Keep going, I’m told, though I want to stop,

then I’m climbing again, dropping my gloom.

Suddenly it seems we’ve come to the top;

there’s a soft bed, lit by a window

in an alcove where we happily flop.

Laughing she finally lets me know

the vision she wanted to share with me —

the tourists staring up like dead fish below.




Last October I wrote a post about the search for the elusive comic book: the one my father didn’t sell that we could sell now and solve everyone’s money woes.

Nine months later we continue to sort through old boxes, sorting out the family heirlooms or things we could sell at a yard sale, our own version of the lottery. Recently we found some approximately one-hundred-year old sheet music in pretty good shape. Once I got over the initial (false) excitement of thinking they might be financially worthwhile, my heart beat more normally and I became  interested in the history. I had taken a class in college on nationalism in children’s literature and found it very interesting. Now firsthand I was witnessing nationalism in another form: sheet music.

Many of the ones we found were copyrighted at the time of  WWI, and thus, this was their subject matter. You can’t get much more nationalistic than this one!

General Pershing song

WWI Nationalistic Sheet Music

How about this one?

 

Vintage Sheet Music

More Nationalistic WWI Sheet Music

According to Antique Roadshow, these are representative of the “golden age” of sheet music between 1890-1920, when people gathered in living rooms and played music for entertainment.

Because my grandfather was in Paris during WWI, I am interested in this time in U.S. history. This is one of my favorite photos of him.

My Grandfather in Paris during WWI

My Grandfather in Paris during WWI

 

I have been considering creating my own “display” in my home with my grandfather’s photo and some “doughboy” toy soldiers. Finding this sheet music may just give me the impetus to do it. I’m thinking now I will frame one of these treasures to add to my display. Since according to Antique Roadshow, they are affordable collectibles, we probably won’t sell them.

But I’m torn. The nationalistic ones are interesting from a historical perspective, but I fell in love with the artwork on some of the others — their colors and style.

sheet music

Vintage Sheet Music

 

vintage sheet music

Colorful Vintage Sheet Music

 

Certainly I can’t be greedy, I’m sure my brothers and sister-in-laws may be interested…and I certainly don’t have the room for more than two. It will be hard to choose, don’t you think?

In the meantime, I’m learning about history and antiques, and the search for the elusive comic book goes on.



{March 20, 2014}   The Pit Man

The Pit Man with his TruckThe Pit Man

The rumbling truck sound

sent us running on little girl legs,

between gushing giggles:

“The Pit Man’s Here!”

Funny how things turn up when the time is right.

I’ve been thinking about writing about the man I called, “The Pit Man” for years. I had started a poem that was never finished (see above). Then, over the weekend, my brother and I were back to sorting through boxes of old stuff at my mother’s. My brother found this solitary picture in a box of random stuff. He pulled it out and said, “Hey, is this the Pit Man?” I snatched it out of his hand excitedly and showed it to my mother. “Yes,” said my mother, “That’s him!”

When I was a child, my grandfather owned 18+ acres of land next to where we lived. He had owned the land our house was built on also, but gifted/sold it to my parents to start their family. The rest of the land was next to and behind our house and was leased out to a sand and gravel company. My parents ended up building their “retirement” home where the driveway to the gravel pit was. fifty years later the remnants of the chain are incorporated into the tree, and the rusty old cable is still coiled on the ground.

Chain incorporated into tree

Nature Devouring History

rusty cable

History’s Remnants

The arrival of “The Pit Man” was akin to a trip to the zoo for two five-year-old girls looking for something to relieve the boredom. He didn’t come every day, only when somebody ordered gravel, so his arrival was unpredictable and exciting. He would have to stop the truck in driveway to unlock the chain that protected it from unauthorized visitors. That gave us time to run over and greet him. He would always smile and spend a couple of minutes talking to us before proceeding with his work.

My memory is of a “James Dean” character: handsome, trim and tanned. The man shown in this picture resembles my memory that way Barrack Obama resembles Denzel Washington…NOT! I remember him in the heat of summer in a t-shirt: I remember staring at the tattoo on his sweaty arm while he smoked during a cigarette break…exotic! He didn’t speak like us. He spoke slowly; he said his “R’s”!  A  child’s first crush on an adult is a memorable life event. Funny how different our memories can be from reality, isn’t it?

Nowadays a mother would have to be wary of her daughter being around such a man; there seem to be so many brazenly bad people ready to hurt children. But back then, it was a different world. It was a small town; my parents knew him. (Funny that they even had a picture of him!) Finding it gave my mother the opportunity to tell me what she knew. His name was Lloyd; he was originally from the Ozarks in Arkansas. She doesn’t remember why he ended up in New England — that would have been a big move back then when people were less likely to move so far from where they grew up, but it was likely economics or because of a marriage. She said he would often speak of his birthplace with affection and wistfulness, and he hoped to get back there someday. He never did; he died quietly in our small town. But he is remembered fondly…

Maybe I am meant to finish the poem…my tribute to what he meant to a small-town five-year-old girl.



et cetera
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