Fishing with Grandpa

Earlier this week I wrote a post about my high school boyfriend, Greg.  Dredging up those memories took me on a journey to our garage where I unearthed a box that hasn’t been opened since 2000, the year my mother died.  Marilyn and I spent a week in Newark, Delaware boxing up Mother’s belongings, loading the containers into moving vans and sending half of them to Colorado and half to Chicago.


This box relocated from Newark. It lived in the attic of my marital home until 2002 when I chose to move along.  I didn’t take much of our furniture, but I was sure to bring along the Jay Family slides and films package.

Jay box.jpg

The box then moved to my first home, lovingly referred to as “the little dump at the top of the stairs.” It was a sad run down second-floor apartment I rented above a real estate office in an old Barrington, IL house.  It was on a busy street corner.  All day and night huge semi trailers drove loudly past.

The steps were outside, very steep and led to my front door which opened onto a large room I decorated with a black desk and rolling chair found at a garage sale and my parent’s furniture from the early 1940s including two cricket chairs and a matching sofa, with no cushions.  My sister, Marilyn, came to visit and she helped me find foam and upholster it with a red matelasse throw.

When Richie and Ann came to visit he took one glance around and asked, “Where am I supposed to sit?  I ain’t sittin’ in those F’n baby chairs!”  They really were tiny.


Sandy loaned me a twin bed for the guest room and in my “master bedroom”, a tiny frigid box, I set up my childhood canopy bed.  She also loaned me a dining table.

When my friends from the old neighborhood came to visit they shuddered.  In retrospect, I realize it was a miserable place, but to me at the time it represented freedom.

Later I chose to buy my own house, a 1920s Sears Bungalow, and the box moved to the basement of 221 Coolidge Avenue.  Happily, it survived living in a wet basement.  Ultimately I had a french drain dug around the basement to dry it out.

I loved my crooked vintage home.  It had a big front porch where I often slept on hot summer nights prior to adding air-conditioning.  The former owner left the porch furniture and I recovered it with cabbage rose print sheets from Target.  I painted a tiny garage sale table to match.  My home was decorated on my shoestring budget.


Sleeping on the day bed was a lot like camp without the enema.  (See my Girl Scout camp post if you don’t understand this reference.)
My girlfriends and I had a lot of laughs at that round table.

20170628_171742.jpgI couldn’t afford to remodel the first-floor bathroom so bought some Home Depot “oops” paint for the walls.  Painted the tiles black and white, sewed a valance for the tub shower and stapled fabric into existing shutters. I did put a new top on the vanity.  In winter I hung my towel over the radiator.  It was so roasty toasty following my shower.

The overstuffed furniture I got wholesale at Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.  Garage sale lamps, a table I painted.  Another wonderful radiator.


The house had three bedrooms upstairs.  I chose to turn one into a large girlie Parisian bathroom.  I wish I had pictures of the other side of the room. There are two white vanities hung white vintage looking medicine cabinets.  I got the lamp at Target then decorated the shade with fringe and rosebuds.  The artwork on the wall is reverse painted glass I did and mounted on pink paper.  A garage sale table painted black. The pink and black hatbox holds a darling fedora I picked up when Jim took me to New Orleans.

Glorious Master Suite.  That’s my old childhood bed sans canopy.  You can see it’s had better days.  The wacky lamp is from Sandy.  Those three holes in the wall are the air conditioning feed.  I have no memory of that side table.  


The box only had a short tenure in my Coolidge basement.  When Jim and I moved to our 1870s teeny front-porch-swing house on Grove Avenue it went to live in our cellar.

The cellar was accessed from outside.  A set of uneven steps led down to a stubborn sticky door.  To get in we had to slam that door with a hip.  The ceilings were low, the walls made of old rocks.  I rarely went down there because the place was full of spider webs and occasionally mice.  Jim had it well-organized and he could easily put his hands on whatever we needed.

That small white gate next to the twisty tree led to our cellar.  Jim hated twisty tree because is was dirty.  I loved it for its charm.

The box has since moved with us to Florida.  For a while, it was in a storage unit while we hunted for a house.  Four years ago, when we moved into our current home, we parked the box on a shelf in our garage.

This afternoon I tore into it only to discover everything was covered in mouse poop.  I put on rubber gloves and wiped each item down with a damp rag.  Gross.


I wouldn’t let the mouse droppings deter me.  I was determined to find photos taken the spring of 1967 when I was getting over the first of many big break-ups with Greg.  I finally got the box unpacked and found a live roach running around on the bottom.  Eek. Floridian critters are disgusting.

Do you see the box marked Alice and Grandpa Jay?  That’s where the slides from spring of ’67 were.

I also discovered Daddy’s old slide viewer.  He loved labeling things. Happily, it still works.


Finding these pictures was a thrill.  Grandpa Jay kept me company on the pier nearly all day every day.  He usually had a cigar in his mouth.  I was fifteen, just a little kid with a broken heart.




I even sat outside and fished at night.  That’s when I finally landed my biggest catch.  I had to call loudly to get Grandpa running from house to pier.  He helped me net it.

No idea why my ears were so weirdly white in this and the next photo. Look like albino Dr. Spock ears.



He cleaned both fish in his workshop, a treasure trove of rifles, handmade fishing lures, rattles chopped off the rattlesnakes he killed with one of his many handguns, armadillo feet, and all sorts of fascinating ghastly darlings.  When we were growing up we would periodically get cigar boxes from Grandpa in the mail.  They were filled with random creepy crawly body parts.

Now, time to load the piles of slides and film into a new clean box where they will probably reside for another seventeen years.

To see the rotten awful High School sweetheart, here is the link if you’re interested.

 no good very bad boyfriend