Friday, December 28, 2007

this (little) old house

This is my current project.

When we lived in the Mac-Groveland neighborhood of St.Paul, we had the most wonderful neighbors. One in particular man stands out in my mind. Ernest Runyan. Tut was his nickname. When we moved into that neighborhood almost a dozen years ago, Tut was in his late 70's or early 80's, but you'd never know it. He worked out everyday and did 100 push-ups morning and evening. He was a solid ex-marine who had a joke and a smile for anyone who would stop and talk.
We called him the Mayor of the Neighborhood or the Governor of the Boulevard. He'd lived in the same little house since WW2. I remember him telling us that his mortgage was an astounding $70 per month, but he and his wife, Vi, had payed a little extra each month so that they could get out from under the debt. Imagine! $70.00 a month.
Tut sort of took care of everyone in the neighborhood. He was the enforcer of good manners efficient yard care("Chemicals kills that stuff every time! C'mon, I've got something in my garage that'll take care of creeping charlie.") Every young family could point to something in their homes that Tut had helped them fix. It wasn't always done correctly - or esthetically (lots of duct tape and 2" bolts) - but it was done with such a good heart that no one had the desire to ever change it.
Before Tut's wife was moved to an assisted living facility - dementia - Tut and Vi used to sit in their aluminum & webbing lawn chairs on their front porch and survey the goings on. The children were noisy and there was usually a pick-up game of touch football happening in the street... The stuff that great city neighborhoods are made of.
We'd all come outside after dinner in the summertime. Those of us with young babies were anxious to see adults, and those of us with grown children were eager to be part of the familial chaos once again. We'd talk and laugh and share a beer or two before heading inside for baths and bedtime.
One late summers evening, Tut beckoned me to join him in his garage. I followed obediently. There it was - the doll house. He told me that he'd made it for one of his daughters. He'd forgotten that it was in the attic. Did I think that my little girl would like to have it?

Via played with Tut's doll house the whole summer. It was on our front porch. I have the most delicious memories of her little body half way into the house, contentedly playing with her people as the warm breeze blew across the porch and the sun light changed as the leaves on the big oak shifted in the wind.

Via played with that doll house for two years.
Then Noni played with it.
Yaya played with it last summer, but it was pretty beaten up.

This year, Santa brought all of the girls a collection of Calico Critters - more little things with even smaller accessories. The Calico Critters came with the promise of a remodeled house.
So, Daddyman and I are up to our elbows in paint and epoxy and balsa wood. We're fixing and updating... we're upping the curb appeal.

Two winters ago, we buried Tut. I know that Tut would be thrilled that my girls are still using the doll house that he'd made for his girls. I hope that the restoration that we are doing will help the doll house last for a very long time. I hope that our girls will pass it on to their children.

(I'll share the make-over photos when the house is done. Keep checking!)


by Johanna Brandvik said...

sweet house. sweet story.

Angela WD said...

What a wonderful playhouse! THanks for sharing your memories. Happy New Year!