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  • I love old stuff. I grew up in a house full of old stuff. Old furniture, old pictures, old stories. Dad loved refinishing, reupholstering, reclaiming, and and refurbishing old stuff. He even taught me how to refinish old furniture one time when I was home recovering from a workplace injury and bored out of my skull. I still have the rocker that I refinished, under his tutelage, and that he gave to Kathy as a present. I also have the two platform rockers that he refinished and reupholstered at least twice. They belonged to his grandfather, Martin Hager, and his wife. Martin’s the one who was a drummer for 3 years in the Civil War. I have written a good third of my cowbird stories sitting in that very same rocker. I’ve had those rockers ever since Mom moved from New Jersey to South Carolina back in 2001.

    Now, I also have the bed Dad was born in, the bed Mom grew up sleeping in, Mom’s dressers, one of Dad’s old dressers, the old Secretary and desk that Dad used to conduct all of the business of raising a large family at for all those years. Both pieces that were in the family for a long time before that.

    One my favorite old things that we have, though, is surely the great Gibraltor scene oil painting that Great, Great Aunt Marie, Martin’s half-sister and daughter of Joseph Girard, Martin’s Step Father who was slain at the Battle of Seven Pines right in front of 14 year old Martin, painted back in 1890. I have the original. She painted an exact replica of it 20 years later and gave it to Dad’s parents, my grandparents, for their Wedding Gift when they married in 1910. That painting hung in Mom’s living room, and we brought it back to Chris’ place in Debordieu when we closed up Mom’s place 2 weeks ago.

    Chris had said that he was told the way to clean these old oil paintings was just with soap and water, gently, so as we moved the original from one room to the other, today, as we rearranged the furniture to accommodate all of the “new” old pieces, so while we had it down, I decided to clean it up, some. It is already a very dark scene, and with age accumulated dust and dirt, and has gotten even darker still.

    As I gently applied the damp cloth to the canvass and went over the entire picture, I felt that connection to my ancesters. This very canvass was painted by Marie 122 years ago. I wonder if she ever thought that her great, great nephew would be running his hands over that same canvass way off in the 21st century, in another milennium? I think of all the places this painting hung. In Grandma’s old house on Stanton Avenue, in the Morningside section of Pittsburgh, the place Martin had built when his business exceeded all expectations and he was able to move out from above his store and build his own place in “the country”. It survived one of the many fires Dad inadvertently was involved in starting. In fact, it has a light to brighten the dark scene up a little bit, that Dad added to it, and the wiring on the electrical cord from the light makes Kathy very nervous, because Dad wired it. Dad tended to be a real “gerry-rigger” when it came to things electrical. We usually don’t plug it in. This makes Kathy happy. I don’t blame her. Dad’s wiring always made me a little nervous, too. Especially after I read all his stories about fires he started as a young lad. That kid was a fire just waiting to be started! Maybe that’s where I get all my “fire” from ? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)

    Photo of Great, Great Aunt Marie Gerard’s Gibraltor scene – the original. This was taken before I cleaned it up. It’s still quite dark, though!
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