The Oldest Thing I Own

What is the oldest thing you own and why?

I was at a dinner party recently where the hosts used a question game to keep dinner conversation moving. Everyone at the table drew a question from a basket and shared their answer with the group. My question was something about what I do on my days off. But this question – what is the oldest thing you own and why? – has stuck with me.

I thought about it on the drive home and woke up thinking about it the next morning.

I first thought of my grandmother’s ring that I wear everyday. It is old. Then I thought about my Uncle Jim’s turquoise bracelet, it is old too. On my way into the garage to leave for work I saw the oldest thing I own. It was sitting in the garage waiting to be moved into the house.

At the end of summer, my Daddy delivered a cabinet to my house that belonged to my grandmother. For as long as I can remember it lived in her bedroom. She kept lots of things in it – VHS tapes, trinkets, or blankets in the windowed shelves. In the drawers were cancelled checks, mementos from trips, scarves, and gloves. I remember waking up as a child in her bedroom and seeing that cabinet first thing in the morning. I know the feeling of the cabinet doors catching as I opened and closed them because the door frames are no longer even. This cabinet was part of her house, part of the experience of living there. It was a fixture. I used this cabinet when I moved into her house in 2006, after she was gone. I used it in the same room and in same ways, minus the cancelled checks, for the next five years.

On the way to work, I called Daddy and asked him about the age of the cabinet? It was older than I thought. It originally belonged to my great-grandmother and according to Daddy it could date back to the 1920s or 1930s.

We talked about what it is made of and whether the glass was original. It is likely that the glass has been replaced and that it wouldn’t stand up to much stress. The back is particle board and it has been stained and painted and repainted many times. He said, “That is why that cabinet is only valuable to you.”

So true.

Attachment-1

The cabinet’s current home in Indiana.

I thought about the why, why do I have it. It wasn’t that it was given to me, I asked for it. I wanted it more than I wanted the darkly stained regal-looking claw-foot cabinet that my sister has in her home. Comparing the two this one is not much. It is the same green color it has been for the last 40 years and lined with the same floral paper my grandmother put in it 20 years ago. And until its arrival in Indiana it probably had never left Buchanan County, Virginia.

It has stood watch in her house for many years and if it talked it could tell many stories – births, deaths, holidays, and everything in between. For many years it was positioned against the wall across from where she knelt every night to pray and was the first thing she saw every morning. It was something she touched nearly everyday and when you open the drawers today it still smells like her house. I can’t look at it and not think of her or her house on the mountain that at one time or another was home to every member of my immediate family. You can’t buy that.

I own it because it is a tangible memory – something to rekindle the memories that fade with time. A precious heirloom. Because, in the words of Hazel Dickens, “there are some things memories can’t bring home.”

The Polar Vortex of 2014

I came to Fort Wayne for the first time in November 2010 for an interview. On the drive to town I became convinced that it was too far from home, too weirdly flat and not easily accessed. The weather was chilly but sunny. There was talk about what the weather would be like but in this two-day visit I fell in love with the academic community and small college campus I was going to join. I left Fort Wayne trying to decide how I was going to explain this move to my family and friends.

I returned in February 2011 to find a place to live. I flew this time and found myself in the midst of the Groundhog Day blizzard. It was cold, roads were snow-covered and at some point prior to my arrival there had been a travel warning prohibiting non-emergency travel. During that visit it all seemed manageable. My realtor drive me around in her minivan. I drove myself around in a rented Ford Explorer. It was an adventure and surely would not happen all the time.

My assessment of the Indiana winter weather was true for the first two winters I was here. The winter of 2011-2012 was barely existent. It kind of snowed once. The winter of 2012-2013 was a bit more serious, it snowed twice and I learned how to shovel (there are strategies and techniques for shoveling snow). That was manageable and I learned something.

Now we have the winter of 2013-2014. This one is not like the others.

Since December it has snowed over a 12 inches. In the last week we have lived in the snow globe that was early January 2014. Thanks, polar vortex. This has been an unwelcome introduction to the other extreme of Indiana winters. On day one of the storm I shoveled 5 times to keep up with the snowfall.

A state of emergency was declared, the National Guard was called out and a non-emergency travel was prohibited. On day two the temperature and windchill was frightening. The temperature was around -20 with windchills as low as -40 and wind speeds of 20 mph. I did not venture out that day.

IMG_6041On day three the temperature got up to 5 but the roads remained nasty with snow drifts and layers of ice. On day 7 we got a break, it reached nearly 40 but it rained (yes, that is nearly a 60 degree change in 3 days).

Now roads, yards and fields are slush-filled ponds. Yesterday on a dog walk I stepped into an area with shin-deep slush on the sidewalk.

I’ve never seen anything like it. It is only January.

I’m told that this kind of weather builds character and stamina. I appreciate that and while I’d prefer to do that voluntarily and in the sun it is rewarding to know that I can handle it – I can live in an extreme weather event by myself (I was in the house for 3 days without any face to face human contact). One day when I live or am vacationing somewhere very warm I’ll say something like “I remember the Blizzard/Polar Vortex of 2014 and it was a mess, but Scout and I had fun.”

Also, snow in large quantities is pretty.

Home Ownership Lesson #9

Buying a new dishwasher is kind of like having a baby. Once you get the new one you conveniently forget the pain (cost) of getting it.

It was a lovely Tuesday afternoon, sometime between 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m., when the Sears installers arrived. They promptly pulled out the old, gross, and mineral encrusted dishwasher. As they did, installer #1 let me know that they did not include the mandatory “install kit” with my order. Um, okay. I looked at him, with what must have been a face of panic, because he responded “don’t worry we keep them in the van.” Super. Oh, but it’ll be $15.00. Of course. Fine. What’s $15.00. Then they carried in my brand new shiny Kenmore Elite dishwasher. A beacon of freedom from using the same three dishes and one cup over and over again and soapy water.

I wrote installer #1 a check, to him (which was odd), signed the installation form and said farewell to the fellas. Note: they were very good, clean, respectful. Then I had a moment with my new equipment.

It is a beautiful thing and its arrival could not be better with Thanksgiving next week. As I gazed at the shiny stainless front, new adjustable racks, stemware holders, and removable silverware tray the thoughts of the cost of such a luxury slipped away.

My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance. —Erma Bombeck

Home Ownership Lesson #7

Hard water is bad. Soft water is good, but it will cost you.

Every morning of my childhood was a crap shoot. Would there be enough water to finish my shower? Maybe, maybe not. It all depended on how long Sister decided to shower. More than once I was left with shampoo in my hair and no water. The good news, though, was the water from our well was clean, smell free, and bubbly. We may not have had a lot of it, but what we had was pristine. Fortunately, around the time I turned 16 we got county water in the holler and my days of will-there-be-enough-water anxiety was over.

Since that time I have never had water issues. Sure, I have heard people talk about hard water and I’d smile nod. I did need to know anything about that. Right?

Wrong.

When you buy a house and this inside of the dishwasher looks like this, then you have to know something about hard water . . .

Yes. That is the inside of the dishwasher in my new house. The inside of the dishwasher is not supposed to be white and crusty. At the inspection the inspector ran the dishwasher a full cycle. It worked. Yeah, it ran. Turns out, that doesn’t mean it will clean anything. Shortly after moving in I discovered that it won’t clean a thing and no amount of lime-whatever or vinegar will fix it. It is hopeless.

Why? Hard water. Solution? We must soften the water. A call to Culligan, a visit from the salesman, and $1,700 later I have this . . .

The Culligan man informed me that a pound of mineral is being deposited in my pipes and appliances every five days. That is a pretty effective sales pitch. He also laughed aloud and said that Culligan “loves” the service authority in my area because the “water is awful.” I am now wondering if the service authority is in cahoots with Culligan? It seems like they could treat the water? But what do I know.

What he did not tell me is that they automatically set this thing to “regenerate,” whatever that means, at 2:00 a.m. when it is unlikely that I will be using water. Um, it is true that I am not using water at 2:00 a.m., but I am asleep at 2:00 a.m. I was not amused when I was awakened the first night by the growling of this machine. Not cool. It is now set to run at 10:00 a.m. and unless The Queen is doing laundry and I don’t know it there should not be any water running then either.

The final blow, after the confusion, cost, lack of dishwasher (did I mention I’ve been hand washing dishes for months), and early morning disturbance, is that I cannot tell a difference in the water after the softener installation. I can’t. Expectation fail. I guess the best I can do now is to buy a new dishwasher and feel confident it won’t get a permanent calcium coating.

Anyone want to go dishwasher shopping?

My Indiana Home

Alright, enough about the mysteries, hardships, and annoyances of first-time home ownership. This morning is a great example of why I love my Indiana home.

This is the view from my kitchen table where I happily sit having tea, eating eggs, and reading the New York Times and Washington Post. All I can see are the lovely trees in the backyard, no highway, no neighbors, and no strip mall. All I can hear are the bugs and birds outside and The Queen as she lounges in the kitchen floor. Ah, quiet is pretty. And all this loveliness is mine.

I hope you are enjoying your Sunday morning.

 

Home Ownership Lesson #6

Curtains are dumb.

It is true, experts agree. By experts I mean Daisy, one of my Cosmic Sisters, and me.

Yes, I know that they are necessary. I, too, enjoy privacy. But honestly, I have an easier time selecting major pieces of furniture (sofas, tables, beds, you name it) and art than I do buying curtains.

The kind sellers of my new home left the curtain hardware in place, which saved me a fortune. Very nice. However, the curtains they left are not my favorite. The living room set were close to the right color but they were rigged-up and hung by white rope. Clearly handmade. Not good. I was able to repurpose the gold sheers from the bedroom as tolerable temporary curtains for the living room.

Since I have an internet addiction, I started online. I was looking for two 60×84 aubergine or deep purple opaque curtains. Simple? Sort of. I found many and zeroed in on a set from Sears. They were the right color, price, and there is a Sears down the road. Quick and easy. I tend to lack impulse control when it comes to these types of purchases, so I immediately went to Sears. I found what I thought was an great deal. Purple panels for $10 each. Who can beat that? I also snagged a set of tab-top sheers to go under the purple panels.

Mistake #1 – when buying curtains one should know what “tab-top” actually means. Apparently, I do not.  I thought the sheers were the kind you slide the rod through. No. Tab-top means that they have the loops hanging on top like a shower curtain. I should have called Mommy. Because I have an aversion to returning things to stores (I really really dislike doing it), I elected just to keep them since it did not affect the light entering my room and I was sure that the panels would hide the tabs. Fine.

Mistake #2 – the reason the panels were so cheap is because they were 60 inches long – not the 84 I needed. I did not find this out until I got one panel completely out of the package and on the rod. Having the white sheers hanging down below the panels was not a look I was going for, especially since the panels were not long enough to actually reach the window sill. Imagine Jethro Bodine’s high-water blue jeans as curtains. Fancy. I could not avoid returning these jewels. Of course, in order to do that I would have to get this panel folded up perfectly to get it back in the tiny little plastic zipper bag it came in. Nearly impossible. I got it in there but it was not pretty. I made sure to stack the unopened one on top of it. Fun times.

I should add that these curtain discoveries were made at 4:00 a.m. I could not sleep due to the unfortunate digestion of a Claritin-D at 10:00 p.m. So my desire to sleep coupled with the sinus attack I was taking the Claritin-D to cure probably added to my curtain frustration.

The next day after a couple cups of tea and some food I came to terms with returning the curtains. What else could I do? Then it occurred to me that I threw the receipt for them away at the Red Robin. I ate there after the purchase because I heard they had a g-free menu (they do, it is good). So, this increased my stress level. I already hate to return things and now what would I do when they wanted a receipt or told me that because it was a sale I could not return them. The anticipation was killing me.

I carted myself and my curtains back down to Sears. The nice lady at the register was an angel. She did not ask for a receipt, she paid no attention to the packaging, and gave me cash back. It was a short-lived victory. The celebration ended when I had to go back and do more shopping for curtains. Because, of course, the kind I bought originally are not available in the 84 inch length.

Decorating is not as fun as people what you to believe.

Sears did have more deep purple curtains ranging from $13 per panel to $50. I had to decide whether little swirly stitches were important enough to me to pay an extra  $37. That did not take long. I checked and double checked the color, style of the top, and length repeatedly between the rack and the check out. I was out the door $28 later. Happily these worked. They hid the tab-tops, are the right color, and length. Win.

Now I just have to find curtains for the living room and kitchen. Maybe I should just buy blinds?

Home Ownership Lesson #5

There will be mysteries.

I remember the day that I looked at my house for the first time. It was house number three for the day.

The house immediately before it was the same floor plan but a corner lot that exposed the entire backyard to everyone who drove by the house. I was not raised in a subdivision. My parents quite literally carved a house seat out of the side of a mountain in order to build my childhood home. Our road had one other house on it and it belongs to B & Daddy Pete. My Daddy and Daddy Pete lived across the road (a different road) from each other their entire childhoods until Daddy Pete went into the Navy and then Daddy went to college. But, soon after the Navy and college they resumed their normal locations. Across the road. Needless to say, I am not used to having neighbors much less having a backyard that total strangers (there are no strangers in the holler at home – we know everyone) can observe. So I passed on that house.

My house has a large backyard with mature trees and no neighbors to the rear – only two neighbors!  Then there is the screened in porch where I can sit and listen to the rain and look at the trees. I did not need much more encouragement. Although, the inside of the house was nice – fireplace, tile, hardwood, and surround sound. I was intrigued by the surround sound. The crafty sellers were wise enough to have the surround sound playing during the showing. And it was on NPR – that helped – I do enjoy some public radio. Every room has speakers, including the screened in porch. Very nice, especially since my laptop works overtime playing music all the time.

So, I make the deal, sign the papers, erect the fence, move in and set up housekeeping. During all this I assumed that I would find the surround sound controls. Seems reasonable that the controls would be obvious. I was wrong. To date, I have no idea exactly how to make sound come out of the surround sound speakers. There are little knobs in every room and tastefully recessed speakers but no obvious outlet, control panel, or plug-in for the system. After weeks of looking I thought I found it. There is a Honeywell panel in the closet. That must be it. When Donte from Comcast came to fire up the internet I asked him and he said, oh, no this is not for surround sound this is where al the telecommunications go. Wrong again.

I began to get desperate. I emailed my realtor.

My parents came for a visit after I moved in (they very kindly brought a bed from my house in Virginia and returned The Queen to her new kingdom). Daddy was bored, I don’t have cable, and needed a project so I suggested he find the surround sound. At this point I am somewhat embarrassed because this should not be this hard, right? Dad inspects. He notices an outlet near the cable hookup in the living room. The outlet has four wires sticking out – green, white, black, and red. Of course, I have no clue what these do and have avoided touching them. Always the 7th grade teacher (he did do that for 25 years), Dad says what do those look like? Oh, well, I guess they kind of look like the kind of wires you hook to speakers and the wires are the same colors as those that go into the back of the TV to connect video and audio from the DVD player. Bingo.

So, we think we have found them but neither of us have any idea how to actually connect a stereo or amplifier to the wires.

My realtor gets back to me with the phone number of the seller. This is so interesting/mysterious that she wants to know what I find out.

I have not gotten around to making that call. I wonder why they would bother taking my call. We’ll see. If they don’t help me (at least tell me where to go to get some geek to help me make this work) I guess I will hang Christmas ornaments from the wires and control knobs and call the speakers fancy decorations.

I never enjoyed mysteries.