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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Monday, March 22, 2010

Unsettled Epilogue E-2

"The Weight of Waiting" Continued

In the summer of 1993, we took our first family vacation to a destination other than Julie's or my parents. We spent a week with some friends in California. Our trip included Tijuana, Mexico; San Diego; LA; San Francisco and all points in between. While in San Jose, we went to the legendary Winchester house, home of the widow whose husband's famous Winchester Rifle won the West and amassed a huge fortune. The story goes that the widow was afraid of all the ghosts of people (primarily Native Americans) who had lost their lives because of her husband's handiwork. She believed that the only thing that kept the ghosts at bay was the sound of hammers and saws in the ever-growing mansion. That's why Mrs. Winchester hired full-time crews to work around the clock for years, adding more and more rooms to the Victorian labyrinth. The construction continued for decades until the widow died. 

The sprawling maze is now a tourist attraction, and as my family and I walked through it, I didn't think of rifles or ghosts or how the West was won. I thought about how my mother must have felt all those years in our house in the woods, with the constant sound of hammer and saw in some remote place beyond her sight.

As I said in Epilogue E-1, my sister's house could be seen from the picture window of Mom's unfinished living room. Once Kathy's house began to look finished from the outside and was waiting for carpet on the inside, the pressure for Dad to finish their own house became greater than ever.

The end of Dad's labors was in sight. The upstairs woodwork was trimmed in, the walls and ceilings were painted or papered, and Mom’s banister to the attic was in place, the curtains were hung, and the floors were ready for carpet. That's how things looked over Christmas Break 1980.
It was not until after the 1981 “Detroit Auto Show” in January that our house had carpeting. That is a strange way to remember when something happened, but like nearly all of the building materials in our house, our “new” carpeting had a story to tell. Technically it was not new; it was slightly used before it was installed. Slightly used carpeting? Allow me to explain.
Since the early 1900s, Detroit has hosted the world’s largest annual auto show. For nearly fifty years this event has been held in Cobo Center, which boasts a 700,000 square feet showroom. Back in 1981, many of the displayed cars were on carpeted platforms, and somehow Dad found out that after the last day of the show when the displays were torn down, they rolled up the slightly used carpet under all the new cars and sold it “as is” to people who would haul it away themselves.

Jack and Kathy and Mom and Dad were glad to get in on that Auto Show carpet deal. That's how it was so easy to remember when Mom's upstairs floors got done. Both her house and Kathy's were carpeted at the same time. To be honest, it wasn’t the highest grade of carpet, but the price was right.
After walking on cold tile downstairs for five years and staring at exposed sub-floor upstairs all that time, Mom was just happy to see carpet coming through the door. When the rolls were laid out flat in their designated rooms, there were hardly any signs of tire tracks or the traffic of thousands of people from all over the world—except in the piece for the living room. Unfortunately, there were some big spots on that carpet from what appeared to be a dripping oil pan on a brand new car. So Dad rolled that carpet back up in hopes of finding a way to reconfigure it in the rooms so that the spots would end up in a closet or cut off, but in fact, the roll ended up in the basement, and they bought a textured pile for the living room, dining room and hallway. (Dad was sorry that the other carpet didn’t work in those areas, but it made Mom happy to have that new carpet smell in the house, since it hadn’t come with the pieces from the auto show.)
Some time after the carpeting was installed, the furniture came for the living room and master bedroom. The other two bedrooms were furnished with things we had. Bathrooms were nicely decorated and inviting. A new small kitchen dinette set was put at the top of the basement stairs; Mom's Ethan Allen dining room table was put in the dining room. (Jack had to refinish the surface because all the fuzz from the vinyl table cloth that had been on it all those basement years had gotten imbedded into the varnish.) Dad had gotten Mom some Kitchen Aid appliances three Christmases before, but they had remained in their boxes for protection while the kitchen was built around them. Once the kitchen floor was installed (same time the carpet was laid), the fridge and stove came out of their boxes.

Wall decorations and pictures from the Roseville house were up in the attic, and some of them came down to the living area, but months before the move upstairs, Mom and Kathy had picked out new wall art that suited these new surroundings.

Gradually, that strange space that had smelled of saw-dust for so long, began to absorb the smells of living—wood burning in the living room stove, supper burning in the kitchen—I mean…supper cooking in the kitchen; banana bread baking while the snow fell outside the windows; coffee brewing in corner of the counter each morning. Eventually, when coming to visit over Christmas Breaks, Spring Breaks, or for vacations in the summer, the upstairs felt as much like home as the basement did through the waiting years.

You may be thinking: “Interesting story, Tom. Sad in some ways once you did the math for us. You say the carpet didn’t come until 1981, and your family first moved from Roseville in time for the Christmas of 1975, that means your Mom had to put up with living in the basement for over five years before moving upstairs. There aren't many wives in this world who would do that.”

Yep. It's true. I almost didn't include these years because in looking back on the story of the property, it is these years that we still find most difficult to explain. I guess what I'm saying is, through the decades that followed, each of the four daughters-in-law that joined the family would often look at Mom and marvel at her patience, knowing they would never have survived (or allowed) the same long wait if it had been asked of them.

Five years after they moved upstairs, Jim graduated from high school and went off to college. It was a hard fall for Mom and Dad. Dad was about to take an early retirement from Bell, but was still full-time and building the garage on weekends. We helped him put the roof on it over the Christmas Break of 1986. Typically, roofs are shingled in warmer weather, but we were all home and Dad enjoyed the company and help. That's Jim at the right (age 18); Dad's in the middle in the red hood; and I'm at the left looking like Mario  (the Italian plumber featured in a Nintendo video game, which I had heard of but never seen at the time). 

Even when the garage was done, there was still no breezeway connecting it to the house, so we rarely used the side door. The front door on the spacious front porch did not yet have a sidewalk or the circle driveway. It just opened to the porch with no convenient way to get to the parked cars. Whenever we came home to visit, we parked on the big cement slap to the left of this picture, grabbed our suitcases, and walked around to the back door of the house

The garage was also done in used brick, but it was from a different source ten years after the brick for the house was hauled from Detroit RenCen site. (There were more white-faced bricks in the lot, but with all the landscaping, it is not easily noticed.)

For over a decade after the garage was finished, the back basement door remained the main entrance to the house. It was at that door or the top of the sidewalk where Mom and Dad's kids and grandkids said their "hellos" and "good byes" from Christmas 1975 through 1995. The white window trim, the breezeway, and the circle drive at the front door came after that. I'll explain how when I wrap up these years in Epilogue F.
Coming next weekend: "The Final Fifteen Years"


Blogger Peter said...

Great post pattern of ink! I used AV Planners before and they did a good job! Here you go - http://www.avplannersinc.com/ca-san-jose

22/3/10 7:10 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Welcome to POI, I see the connection. You are from San Jose and you must have found this post through some sort of search (since SanJose was mentioned in the opening paragraph).

Please come again to read, but the comment section is not a place for spam or ads to unsolicited sites.
Thank you

22/3/10 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have seen your house and been there when it was not done and when it was. The story about how long it took is one of the reasons I love your family and miss your parents. I am starting my reading here late but like what you are doing.

old friend ;)

24/3/10 8:43 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Hello Old Family Friend,

Welcome to POI (I'm assuming you're new to this spot since you're behind in the story). Since you know my family, you will enjoy this and many other items in the archives.

I hope my closing posts do not take away from the 50-some chapters before that. I cherish my teen years on The Property. I think my brothers and I were spared much of the "junk" of the Seventies by working hard with my father out in the woods. The chapters of this epilogue are somewhat rushed and reflect the many years when I was not at the house, but it was the place we returned to as "home" while young adults (and even mid-life adults with kids of our own). I say this to say that I think you'll enjoy the regular chapters more than the epilogue.

We miss our folks, too.
Thanks for stopping by.

25/3/10 3:20 PM  

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