Recently, I identified yet another idiosyncrasy of mine. Yes, I know i know – there are so many to choose from that one would have thought that, by this point in my life, there were no more to mine. BUT, in keeping with the ever persistent and contemporary discoveries of tombs in Egypt, or clothes bags of old coin silver in warehouses in Texas, I too, have more quirks lurking beneath the seemingly well tilled exterior.
In many ways, I do not see this as a particularly unhealthy one ~ as it causes no ill effects on myself or others, no inducements of sneezing, or general distasteful or disturbing habits. No, my tendencies are more preservationist than anything…although I suppose one could argue that just such a commitment could result in newspapers piled to the crown molding and my 6th grade Toughskins conveniently accessible next to my evening chair.
But , no, it is far more sublime and the following is stated to reinforce this premise.
A number of years ago, a young woman named Monica that worked in one of the Newbury Comics locations under my management. She was an affable woman, with a ready smile and persistent cheeriness about her ~ perhaps chemically buoyed (I never really knew, although had strong suspicions) ~ with over-sized tribal art mirrored upon both her arms that may be of considerable visual annoyance when she meets with middle age. I liked her considerably and knew that she was a reliable source to dispense a daily dose of good spirits.
A few years into her tenure, her much beloved grandfather, with whom she actually took residence with, passed away. They lived in the small Blackstone River town of Upton which was, similar to many a central Massachusetts mill river village, in transition from its roughened granite foundation to one of a tidy suburban commuter locale ~ complete with fresh, blossomed fields of well appointed 4 bedroom colonials. However, as his home was downtown and on the main 19th century thoroughfare, it was a modest presence along a modest sidewalk amongst a modest row of old laborer homes.
The loss was a significant one for Leslie, as it involved not only the loss of one loved so dearly, but also the loss of the home as well. It was, as a result of his passing, to be sold in earnest to finalize his estate. Upon said announcement, the extended family descended on the place, and all known matter of removal was invoked. After the skies had cleared Leslie, in all her kindness, as well as awareness that I liked to indulge in a bit of craft from time to time, ask if I would be interested in salvaging any of her grandfather’s tools
I ventured down a few weekends after the invitation and Leslie lead me to a small detached shed in the back behind the main house. Inside – there was a number of unusable and ancient power tools – the type of deep, thick steel with cloth cords and weighing too many pounds for those of non-trade stock. The patina of old steel has a robustness of old industry – thick & stout despite the assault of time – an America of long, purposeful, muscled breaths.
Off in one corner of this tight little space was a small table “tool” chest of 5 thin tiger oak drawers maybe 2″ thick and no more ~ encased in a well worn black leather with a ragged handled that was so evidently, and often, utilized. Inside there was a complete “life” of this old man’s time as a machinist – old car registration tags (that looked like license plates) , union cards, football clippings, badges, thin parchments memos, pay envelops, tickets, pins, small unknown specialty implements that step slowly across four decades. Each drawer held an echo ~ reverberating still within the polished oiled steel. They emanate a well coordinated and manual precision of eye, steady hand, and metal etched guideposts, and importantly ~ a life of steady rhythmic focus ~ not unlike the machines that served as his companions for so many years.
Now here I didn’t even know the man – just had this accidental work related connection…..BUT..to this day….I have never removed a single item from those drawers or even moved them within the confines of their very housing – even at the detriment of my own desires of re-use. For some reason, I see these pieces as belonging to complete a story of this plain, uneventful oak chest with a worn handle….it’s this odd, quaint set of little items of no distinct monetary value but when massed – they speak of a different time and clearly speak of the man’s history in an undeniable hands-on way that no single item of value or provenance could ever replicate. They are patchwork of a greater image, a deeper story, and cradled without fanfare in thin felt lined oaken drawers.
So, in respect to this treasure, I am bound. Bound to protect, to marvel, to view, and to tell such tales to those that have the ridiculous and insane patience to listen. A quirkiness emerged like so many rocks from a New England farm field in spite of years of meticulous cleaning.