It once was lost, but now it’s found…

As my sister and I were working on our family home last year, preparing it for the estate sale, we were, naturally, overwhelmed by all of the ‘stuff’ in the house.  Stuff that needed sorting; stuff that needed to be thrown away; and stuff that needed to be saved.

The more we worked, the more we realized that the “saved” pile needed to be the smallest.  There was just no way either of could take everything; and frankly, neither of us really wanted everything.  So we had to pick the items that we REALLY wanted the most, and leave the rest behind for the sale.

As time wore on, we knew what we wanted.  We marked those items off and set them aside.  Beth took a few smaller items, and I took a table that was my Grandma’s that I really liked a lot, along with a number of smaller mementos and a few handy kitchen items.  It seemed pretty easy at the time, but in reality, it was quite overwhelming. And even during that time and long afterward, I kept wondering if there was something else I was missing.

When the sale came around October, I knew it was too late– I had to accept that whatever I took was what I got– everything else had to go to the sale.  And truly, that was the most important thing about it: every penny we sold went to Mom so she could pay for her assisted living care.  So whatever we could contribute to further that cause was the best for everyone.

After the sale, however, and after the sale of the house, I finally realized there was one item I wished I had kept: My Dad’s budding box.

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Roses by the house, 1974

Dad was an avid rosarian.  At one point we had over 250 rose bushes in our backyard, and that was largely due to his skill at budding and grafting rose bushes. Each summer, he budded close to 30 roses from bushes he either already had or that his friends had in their yards.  I’d watch him as he’d carefully perform the steps of budding new roses, and eventually he taught me how to do it.  It was one of those things that he and I enjoyed doing together– something we shared.

So this box meant a lot to me. But as far as I knew, it was long gone.

Until today.

My Aunt Rita held her annual family and friends picnic at Simmons Island earlier in the day, and we had just finished everything up.  I had my camera with me, so I decided to take some pictures around downtown Kenosha before heading back to Chicago.  I’d walked around for about an hour and was getting warm so I got back into the car for a drive around.  I was getting ready to “scoop the loop” down 6th avenue, when I suddenly turned onto 56th Street.  I saw the old Leader Store, where we used to buy our school, Cub Scout and Girl Scout uniforms when we were kids, and something caught my eye.  I hit the brakes and quickly did a u-turn and parked.  I couldn’t believe it… but it was my dad’s budding box, in the window, with his name clearly showing.  It was marked with a price tag: $20.

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Dad’s budding box in the window of the former Leader Store in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Dad built this box in the early 1970s, along with a few others for some of his rosarian friends. I believe he got the idea from another friend, or an article in The American Rose magazine; but in any case, he built it himself, painted it, and even painted the rose and his name in a distinctive script.  He used the box to carry all of his budding tools and supplies, so he could quickly set up shop when he was ready to work.  And use it, he did.  A lot.

It’s one of the last remaining items that showcases his art talents.  Many of them were lost or destroyed over the years, including a beautiful set of budding instruction charts that were wrecked when our basement flooded a couple years ago.  It truly is a one-of-a-kind, priceless item that we really cherish.  So to have it back would mean so very much.

There were no phone numbers in the window, indicating who to call if one had a question about one of the items.  The store was empty, so clearly someone was using the window space just to display these items.  I snapped a picture of the box in the window and sent it to my sister.  And then I posted it to a group on Facebook called “You Know You’re From Kenosha If…,” where current and former residents of Kenosha reminisce about things, places, and people they grew up with and remember fondly while living in Kenosha.  There have been some great, lively discussions and a lot of really great history shared in this group, so I figured it was the best way to find out some information about where the box was displayed.

Almost immediately, I started getting comments with ideas of who to contact, as well as a lot of support and wishes for me to get this box back.  By the time I got back to Chicago, the woman who placed the item in the window had sent me a private message on Facebook with her number saying to call her back about the box.

I called her once I got settled, and told her the story behind the box, and how I discovered it in the window.  She barely could recall how she even got the box, but she knew she liked it and thought it was interesting — and she wondered why nobody was interested in it or wanted it.  So in the end, she graciously offered it back to us, no charge.  I was moved by her generosity– even though it’s ours in heart and in history, it’s technically hers right now.  But I’ve discovered with people who deal in antiques or collectibles– it’s not so much about what you make on an item: it’s more about how the story is told, and what it means to someone.

Beth will pick it up later this week.  I’m excited to have it back in our family again.

A really nice example of the power of the internet, and specifically, the positive power of social media.  When good people are involved, it can do pretty awesome things.

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I’d like to add a plug for Janet Steinmetz at Black Sheep Mercantile.  Janet is the wonderful lady who has the box and offered to return it.  If you’re in Kenosha, please stop by and visit her store at 6227 22nd Avenue.

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Memorial Daze

Memorial Day never lasts long enough. No sooner than it starts, it’s over.

But thankfully, I got to fit some really fun activities into my beloved three-day weekend.

The big question when this weekend rolls around is always, “What am I going to do?” It’s like planning for a major event for some; for others it’s a welcome time for rest and relaxation.

In Chicago, an obvious solution is to participate in some way in the festivities at the International Mister Leather (IML) event. This event happens every year and draws a very colorful–in dress and in behavior– crowd that is perfect for people-watching as well as participating.

But I didn’t participate in the IML festivities this year. Most of my friends took off for other locales. I didn’t feel like doing the leather thing alone, since I’m not much into the scene to begin with; so I had to make some different plans. I chose a much more leisurely approach to the weekend.

My friend Matt and I both got new cameras in the past year, and we’ve been talking about going on a photo excursion somewhere in the city for a while now. The weather was nice and was looking to stay that way all weekend, so I thought this would be a great time to go on our first excursion.

Needless to say, I am pleased with the results!

Arthur Caldwell Lily Pond Swim, Duck, Swim!
Skyline from Lincoln Park Lagoon Arches
Enter here Pink Crabapple

On Sunday night I headed north to Kenosha to pay mom a visit.

As I went home Monday night, I realized there was one thing we didn’t do– we didn’t visit dad’s grave.

I don’t think we decided to do this consciously. We certainly talked about dad over the weekend, and other relatives who have passed as well.

It seems to me that people pay tribute to those they love in their own ways. I think if Mom could get around better we would have made a point to go to the cemetery; but we chose to remember him in our own way. We certainly don’t love him any less; it just was easier for her to do it this way.

I cut up old branches that had fallen the yard, and cut down some tree saplings that had begun the grow in the flower beds. I went out in back of the garage and picked an enormous bouquet of lily of the valley and plucked a few sprigs of lilacs and put them in vases on the table so she can enjoy them. I brought up her laundry, I changed light bulbs and did other odd jobs around the house that she couldn’t do for herself.

And we cooked and talked and laughed and just enjoyed each other’s company. In all, it was a really nice visit. I think Dad would have been pleased with that.

Now the week is all messed up. Tuesday should be Monday and Wednesday should be Tuesday. It’ll be like that til Friday- which will come faster than expected, and that’s a good thing. But it was worth it to have that extra day to spend with my mom. I’d gladly take a hundred more of those days than have to work five days in a row! That’s better than any vacation.