Our Grandparents’ Home

January, 2016 was a month that had to be wrestled and flung to the ground. When it was good, the snow floated down lazily and soft under a sky the color of a grey kitten. I made pear biscotti and baked bread that I shared with the birds and squirrels. When January is mean, the nights are long, dark, and cold in old houses and buildings across town. The sharp wind rattles the old windows and sneeks in through gaps around doors. There was 1/8th of an inch of ice on the interior side of the steel door and windows. Inside, I wore big sweaters, snow boots and a scarf around my neck.  Now, we have stomped on old January and walked over it.

The shop was closed for the whole month. Customers dwindle down to one or two a day when the sidewalks are covered with ice and snow. Some building owners don’t shovel or de-ice their sidewalks because they aren’t here. Even with a #10 shovel, I couldn’t break the sidewalk ice after sprinkling ice melt on it the night before. I held on to the buildings when I walked to the mailbox and took ginger steps. Two shopkeepers slipped on the ice; one broke her leg. One day, I went inside Sweet Angeline’s Gourmet Bakery and Cafe and spend a comfortable hour with my friends, Angie and Jim, with a huge, steaming cup of their fabulous coffee. It is the most welcoming place with pastry worthy of a Parisian boulangerie. Walking home while reading their new menu, that I will post under the glass on the shop desk, I am again amazed that we have such a cosmopolitan cafe in this little town of 2000 people.

Now on to February and I think we are going to have an early spring. The sun is out again and it feels strong. Almost all of the ice is gone from the sidewalks on the north side of the street. We have three new (and interesting) shops in Richmond.

This post is about something fabulous that happened. Last fall, I was walking around the corner of my building, carrying, with my friend, Roger, a huge replica of someone’s farmhouse that I bought at a barn sale. The house was quite big and a man, walking to a restaurant across the street with his wife, stepped up to help carry it. Everyone walked into my building and the house was set down. The man, Ron Warwick and his wife, stayed for a minute to talk and as one topic led to another I mentioned that I wished I had a replica of my grandparents house. It had recently been torn down in Northbrook, Illinois. A developer was building a McMansion on the property as happens everywhere now.   Ron said that he would turn the house that we were carrying, into a house as close to my grandparents’ house as was possible. I don’t know what kind of a look I had on my face, but I think it looked like a big question mark. I said, “Why would someone do that for a complete stranger?” I realized later that he is simply a selfless artist who must create, for not only did Ron with the help of his friend, Rich, make me a replica of my grandparents’ house, but built a completely new house,  from the ground up.

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We sat down only a few times and talked about the house. On Google Earth, we watched as the last remaining images of it disappeared forever. Ron whipped rulers around and did some kind of complicated mathematical and geometrical figures in his head while I tried to remember where the windows belonged. Then he started telling me, from his calculations, where the doors and windows belonged.

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Side

Nothing like this ever happened to me before, nor will it, I expect, ever happen again. I told Ron, and it is true, that I like the house as much as I liked my brand new 1972 convertible Mustang on the day that I got it. Every time I look at the house, I get a joyous and magical feeling.

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Back

Now, the real house, our grandparents and their children are gone. And just as they had to go on living as they lost their loved ones, our generation must go on, too. It is still hard. But, we were lucky to have all those people once and I was lucky when I came around that corner and, just by chance, met Ron Warwick.

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Television Room

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Some nights, after I climb up the 17 stairs to where I sleep, I make a mad dash to get under the feather blanket where it is cozy and warm. And sometimes, in the dark, I stand by the house and angle a flashlight to shine in one of the windows, just as the street lamp did and I can hear Grandma and Grandpa, in the den, singing the songs of their youth, following the lyrics on the television screen  as Mitch Miller* smiles and waves his hands in time to the music.

*In the early 1960s, Miller became a household name with his NBC television show Sing Along with Mitch, a community-sing program featuring him and a male chorus: an extension of his highly successful series of Columbia record albums of the same name. In keeping with the show’s title, viewers were presented with lyrics at the bottom of the television screen, and while many insist there was a bouncing ball to keep time, Miller correctly said this was something they remember from movie theater sing-alongs and cartoons.

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Ron and Rich standing next to the replica they built of my grandparents’ home. Push down on the walls shown here and they pop open automatically to reveal the rooms within.

 

52 thoughts on “Our Grandparents’ Home

  1. Your description of the bitter cold and ice of January painted a picture in my imagination. And then you segued to your grandparents house…how wonderful! From a moment of serendipity came a magical work of art that you can appreciate every day. The details are amazing, the molding, doorknobs, toast in the toaster.

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    • The toaster is from a friend of Ron Warwick’s and it is apropos because Grandpa worked at a dairy and had to be at work hours before dawn. He worked there his entire adult life and every morning Grandma got up and made and ate breakfast with him at 2 or 3 a.m. so she set the table and got everything ready the night before.

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  2. Oh my gosh, GInene. I cannot imagine the rush of feelings you have for the serendipitous encounter and resulting outcome here! Truly, that must’ve been communication straight from one of your grandparents above! This takes my breath away, truly. How very wonderful of Ron to do this for you. Amazing. And your furnishings – had you already collected those, or are you now accumulating?

    On another note, I am happy to say our 18″+ totally melted within 8 days, but I am looking at an icy dusting this morning after those mild temps did their job. I hope this front moves quickly, as my daffs are a little too high out of the ground to survive much more of this waffling winter.

    When you have a chance, will you please email me your address? Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The most wonderful story. I have been making a point of recognizing God’s daily blessings and giving Him the joy for them and immediately thought how gracious God was to put Ron in your life and I don’t believe it was by chance. And, yes I too remember Sing Along with Mitch and the dancing words across the screen. Thanks for great memories for me too.

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  4. The kindness of strangers often takes our attention away from the troubles in our world (and sometimes the cold in our homes and the treacherous ice on the sidewalks!). What a very kind man Ron is, the replica of your grandparent’s home is amazing. Will you be adding bits and pieces?

    The beginning of your post was so perfectly descriptive and poetic, Ginene, even though I experience the same sort of winter extremes, I’ve never read anything so spot on unemotionally and very real.

    Until next time…

    Jane

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Beautiful story dotted with nostalgic anecdotes and visually enriched by lovely replicas of your grandparents’ house. Streaming through the pics worked a kind of magical realism for me, as the views of well appointed interiors seemed to bring the house alive with its artistry. Warm hugs and best wishes your way, Ginene. As for Ron and Rich, may their tribe increase…

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  6. While it would be nice to have at least one school snow day, I can’t imagine ice encrusted windows. Brrr!

    Kind strangers. Unexpected gifts. That makes your gift all the more satisfying.
    Helping my sister rehab my grandmother’s 98-yo home, I know just what you are feeling, Ginene. Seeing it on the market, she made an emotional purchase. I’m sad to write that the claw foot tub, ornate radiators, and swinging kitchen door are long gone; but the memories still spilled out of our mouths as we repaired and refinished the original flooring, painted the 13-ft tall ceilings (what a chore!), caulked the entry transom window and updated the bath and kitchen. It must fill your heart with warm, comforting memories each time you look at your house.

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  7. What an incredible story! I don’t think it was mere coincidence that you ran into this “stranger”. The house is beautiful and I know it is something you will treasure forever. Like you, I can’t wait until spring ~ and then, I will definitely have to make a trip to Richmond and visit your shop (and meet you in person!) and have lunch at that wonderful cafe that you mentioned.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Oh Ginene, I thought my stranger gift was awesome, but yours is fantastic!! First I must say how I wish I was at the table partaking in the ladies idle chat at the local bistro with you (what lovely conversations we’d have). This was a pure blessing that God bestowed upon you to have a cherished memory brought to life. Enjoy decorating your lovely home, while thinking of your grandparents.

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  9. Ginene- The dollhouse is exactly how I remember your grandparents house! Ron did an incredible job!

    For those of you who dont know, Ginene is my cousin, the most amazing, kind and wonderful cousin someone can have. I am proud of her and her blog, she has always had an incredible way with words and her blog proves that.

    Love you Ginene!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The gift of your grandparents’ miniature house is a gift that keeps on giving as memories flow out of their rooms and into your full heart! It also speaks volumes about Ron’s and Rich’s hearts. It is so like God to bring so much joy and warmth despite the cold! Thank you for sharing your story!

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    • Debbie M.,
      You are so right and the house brings me so much joy. I am going to make replicas of the furniture that was in the house. It amazes me how much information is stored somewhere in our minds. I hadn’t been in that house for decades and, yet, I can remember so much about the furniture. My brain isn’t all that brilliant, I’m sure, and the remembrance is there because people didn’t redecorate as often as they do now. People bought their good furniture and kept it forever.
      Ginene

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  11. Ginene… this was such an emotional story for me. My grandparent’s home is where my love of the 1940s comes from and although their home wasn’t demolished it was horribly remodeled and no a speck of their past exists.

    I would love a replica of the home I live in now. What a wonderful thing for them to do and how selfless.

    I’m so happy for you, I can’t even begin to explain it.

    xo,
    rue

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rue, Thank you for stopping by, I know you have been super busy lately. I think you and I have the same love of the 1940s stemming from the same reason which is the wonderful feelings about out grandparents’ homes.

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  12. What a treasure, I would love to have a replica of my grandparents 4 room house with a little back porch and a well outside the back porch
    I am so lucky to have had them in my life but I sure miss them in my old age we just don;t know how lucky we are when we are young

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Janice,
      If the floor plan was fairly simple, I bet you could build it yourself! Grandparents stay with us in our minds forever. We were lucky to have them, weren’t we? I’m afraid the next generation with more divorces and more people having to move away to find good jobs, separated many children from their grandparents.

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    • Janice, I spoke to Ron Warwick the other day on the telephone and he said he might be interested in building replicas for more people. I would be glad to pass your phone number or email address to him if you email me. Who knows, you might have the next one!

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  13. I’m so happy you came to Thoughts of Home on Thursday so I could read this,

    “January, 2016 was a month that had to be wrestled and flung to the ground. When it was good, the snow floated down lazily and soft under a sky the color of a grey kitten. I made pear biscotti and baked bread that I shared with the birds and squirrels. When January is mean, the nights are long, dark, and cold in old houses and buildings across town. ”

    Your writing is amazing! I love your descriptions, the similes & metaphors. You are very talented.

    Now, that house is so neat! It was meant to be for you to meet that man. The house is amazing and I know it brings you much joy.

    Like

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