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

EEEK! Toad Invasion!

Late last night I let Bronson out, waited by our entrance and peered through the glass watching for him.  When he arrived, I pulled open the door and suddenly a toad hopped into the house.  I screeched, Bronson was oblivious, and Toad scooted around our sofa, past a chest of drawers, then disappeared.

I did not intend to go to bed until the darn thing was evicted.  Out of the blue, he leaped onto the ceiling.  Then swiftly bounded down and was lost again.  I finally gave up hunting, decided to assume he’d be frightened of us and probably wouldn’t end up in our bed.

Got up early this morning, toddled to the kitchen and guess who was right on the counter?  Stupid Toad!  He must have been sleeping.  He didn’t move a muscle when I screamed.  I immediately decided ejecting toads fell into the “guy” job category, like unclogging toilets and taking out the garbage.

Jim has just gotten out of the feathers.  He peered at our unwanted houseguest, grabbed a laundry room rag and simply dropped it over Toad.  He then gathered it up and tried to hand it to me.  NOT!

So he tossed the whole package onto our front porch.  An hour later the cleaning lady, Ana, showed up.   She saw the bright yellow cloth, picked it up and out popped Toad.  He jumped onto the glass front door.  For a minute I thought we’d have a repeat performance–into the house, around the sofa, past chest of drawers, onto the ceiling.

Happily, Ana had the presence of mind to bat it away.

The wildlife in Florida is unique. We’ve had armadillos burrow into our garden, turkeys stroll through the yard.  Recently a gecko invaded the kitchen.

All in all, though we’ve been lucky.  Several years ago the family three doors down from us woke to find an alligator in their pool!





Our Impulsive Move to Florida

In the summer of 2013, Jim and I moved from the Chicago suburb of Barrington, Illinois to Florida.  We left my dream house….but that was good because other dreams came true.

Prior to marrying in 2005, we decided neither of us wanted to live in the houses we’d occupied previously.  I hated his townhouse.  Sure, it had a great view overlooking a lake.  But every house in the neighborhood looked the same– tan. If you were daydreaming while driving you could easily end up half a mile past his place before realizing your mistake.  I called his neighborhood “Brown Town”.

Moreover, it was in a gated community.  I’d had enough gated community living to last a lifetime.  I wanted a home where friends could come knock on my door anytime they chose to.  Furthermore, nothing was within walking distance.

The home I lived in was south of his, in the darling village of Barrington.  Locals simply call it “The Village.”   Restaurants, boutiques, grocery stores, churches, the train to Chicago were all within blocks.

My house was a 1920s Sears Bungalow.  It had a big front porch. Somewhere along the way, someone had enclosed it with cantilever windows.  No, they weren’t pretty, but I could lock the porch door and spend hot summer nights sleeping on the daybed I created.  It was camping without the icky parts.

The kitchen needed updating, as did a bunch of other stuff.  Yet it was mine!  For the first time in my life I’d been able to make each and every decision regarding my home.

Jim and I compromised, agreeing to sell our houses and buy one we both loved.

Shortly thereafter, while headed back to Brown Town, Jim passed an 1880’s farmhouse two blocks from mine.  It had come on the market, “For Sale by Owner,” that morning.  We made an offer the same afternoon.   A month or so later, before closing, we took our “walk-through”.  The house was nothing like we remembered.  We grimaced, looked at each other and asked, “What were we smoking?”

Charmed by location we overlooked the many dreadful design flaws.  It took us nearly a year to remodel.  I hand-painted and fired ceramic sinks for two bathrooms and painted a tile mural for a back-splash. Everything but one exterior door was scrapped and replaced, including the landscaping.  Our Village home became a little jewel box.  I swore the only way Jim would EVER get me to leave 502 South Grove Avenue was in a pine box. (Believe me, as I was making never-ending remodeling suggestions, that pine box may have entered his mind!)

Grove sink
I painted the sink in the powder room.  Loved those cool light fixtures.
Unable to find our photos, I lifted these photos from Zillow.  The woman who purchased our home moved on.  We left the Daniel Boone School sign with the house.  I just seemed to fit in on the corner of Russell and Grove.  Isn’t that twisty tree enchanting?  It dropped dreadful, purple, driveway-staining berries.  But I saved it from Jim’s threatened ax.

Prior to our move, we’d been spending a large part of frigid Chicago winters on Floridian Anna Maria Island.  We drove back and forth.  Driving home in early spring of 2013, I turned to Jim and nearly shocked him into swerving off the road when I declared, “You know what? It’s time move to Florida!”

He gave me twenty-four hours to change my mind, then he called a realtor.  We got home on Tuesday, listed on Friday and sold that darling little old lady for cash, a bit over full price, the next day!

Now here we are—Floridians!

There is a positive thinking/manifestation story in all of this.

  1. I always wanted my own crooked old house.  I got it in my Sears Bungalow.
  2. I’d  long dreamed of living in a porch swing house. 502 South Grove had a sweet front porch. We hung a swing.
  3. For years I fantasized about someday having a big screened in patio.  Yup, we’ve got that here! The natives call their pool screens “cages.”  We have a cage.  It’s a dandy, mosquito free space with a large overhang providing much-needed shade in the heat and cover from the summer downpours.
  4.  I’m working on manifesting our next dwelling. Someday, when we no further want to take care of yard and pool, and no longer have Bronson, our wonder dog, we might just relocate to St. Petersburg.  Perhaps a condo within walking distance of the many activities St. Pete has to offer.  For now, though, we love it right here.   Life is very good!  Very good indeed.