Monday, August 14, 2006


I was part of a work crew restoring an old Victorian home.

A previous attempt at restoration many years ago couldn't withstand time and bad weather. The foundation was crumbling. Rotted timbers and clapboards hadn't been replaced. Instead, the house was slathered in a coat of pretty pastel yellow paint. All the Victorian doodad trim was painted flat bright white.

Good paint job, lots of time and effort. The house looked ready for prospective buyers, but appearance was more important than substance or durability. If you picked at the paint with something as soft as a fingernail, you’d reveal the rotten brown wood beneath.

To be fair, the previous owner wasn't trying to cheat anybody. He wasn't trying to sell broken goods. He did the best he could with what he had at hand. He pretty much wanted to cut his losses and move.

So anyway, I was working on a second floor back porch... like one of those sleeping porches that people of means built before the advent of electricity and air conditioning. This sleeping porch was filled to the railing with broken, spongy brown chunks of bad wood.

I was using a small trowel (way too small for the job - should've brought a shovel) and throwing the bad wood over the railing into the back yard. Much sweating and swearing. I said to the crew, “We'll haul it all away later. Let's just clear it out for now.”

Digging down more, I discovered a rectangular box... maybe a foot square by about three feet high. It was pristine... a solid clapboard box painted the exact same pastel yellow as the rest of the house. I emptied it out and turned it over, upside down.

I woke up (delighted and laughing for the first time in a long time).


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