Monday, December 10, 2012

The Missing Home

Yeah, I did this too. Living 3 miles from the Cohansey shore,
I dared the trip in a small boat for no reason. Made it home.
Fear and water and boats are other things I miss. A lot.
You see, I'm actually from there. Unlike the antique poseurs.

TIME OUT CONTINUED. Definition of missing. No pictures. No provable traces.

But the YouTube in the prior post was MY house. How I know. The centerpiece of the mansion was the wide fireplace, restored within an inch of its life. Antiques everywhere, blah blah -- only problem? The actual mantelpiece was the exact same 2 x 6 my dad installed when he discovered the fireplace had no mantel. I recognize his handiwork, which is just like mine. He'd be thrilled to hear that it's been taken for antique.

He wasn't trying to fake anyone out. He was putting up a mantelpiece. Because a fireplace should have a mantelpiece. He used walnut stain to make it match other parts of the room. Didn't really. But when you have no money, you do your best.

I could give you a guided tour. The doors with thumb latches our German Shepherd Mattie knew how to open unless someone was watching.

The front door -- I suspect you can find it -- that bowed inwards during Hurricane Hazel and my dad dreamed about afterward: Harry Truman wanted in and was denied.

The snug den where we listened on Fridays and Sundays to... well, as I've already told you.

Let me back up a bit. I don't have the pictures. Things you lose as you get old. The house my dad bought wasn't a stand-in for the House of the Seven Gables. It cost $1500 in 1946. He and his young wife hacked it out of the wilderness. Trees were growing through the windows. Ivy was consuming the mortar from the bricks. I don't have the pictures but I've seen the pictures.

He spent the next quarter century turning it into a lovely home. He was an ambitious guy. It had been a farmhouse for a long time. Farmers in the area didn't believe in lawns. My dad did. He mowed all three of the six and a half acres that weren't fields. He didn't believe in fertilizer or seed. His conviction was that if you treat weeds like grass, they'll eventually become grass.

The house itself was a disaster with a history. The middle part dated to 1730, the big left hand part to 1815, and the one-story right hand frame part to the Civil War. The brickwork was all different, there was lots of ivy covering both, and there were structural problems with both parts. The 1730 part had no real floor; it was crumbling into mud. The 1815 part had been sabotaged by farmers who ripped out a supporting wall so that the two principal first floor rooms were on the verge of collapse.

Hardly a mansion. Oh, I forgot. The Civil War part, our kitchen, was subject to rats, because it had no foundation whatsoever.

I'm sorry if this isn't as funny as promised. But it kind of was. It only took 25 years, but by the end the place looked better than the YouTube video. My dad never had any vacations. Neither did I. When I got old enough to mow, the lawn grew, out into the attached fields that came with the property. Cut the weeds, watch the grass grow. Mostly true. It wasn't till I became corporate that I started seeing the USA.

When I was nearly ten, we turned a field out back into a tennis court. I held the posts while he slammed the post hole digger into the ground. I held the chicken wire while he closed the copper closing rings. And I rolled the court and rolled the court while he raked and smoothed and ran the liming machine. Then we played, tennis on our tennis court.

Later he fixed the broken things in our historic house. He added a kitchen you can still see parading as original in the video. (We all scrubbed the adjoining brick wall with wire brushes to remove ivy remnants. Imagine our surprise that those bricks are now river rocks.) He poured a concrete foundation in the empty hole of a room where the big fireplace is, which no doubt sustains the phony brick floor the video shows.

I don't mind people making things look better. I do mind esthetic trumpery. The frame structure to the right is nonsense. It was never two stories, and the siding is pure forgery, designed to look two hundred years older than it could possibly have been. Worse, the uniformity of the brick facade spanning the 1730 and 1815 parts looks new. As if some car dealer wanted an old house to look like a suburban deluxe McMansion.

Good luck with that.

Well, not really. I want you to go to hell. You interlopers spent a fortune destroying my home. I miss the days when people would have known what fools you were and what the hell I'm talking about.

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