Thursday, November 24, 2011

Opening doors

Recently I have added some new doors to this old church. The front door is very old, and small - not the regulation six plus feet found in most homes today and it has an old porcelain knob.

My contractor friend said to me - "Do you want to use the handle from the old door?"

No I thought, then answered out loud - "No!" very firmly as I looked at the modern handle that had been used on the door I was replacing.

I knew exactly what I wanted. I ran out to the drive shed and pulled out a crumbling basket full of bits and pieces of iron, some ancient hand-carved dowels and about ten porcelain knobs.

After sorting through the basket we found a complete latch set for the knobs and found two porcelain knobs that fit. Nothing worked right away of course and it took lots of WD-40, paint thinner, black paint and elbow grease to pull it all together. At the end of the day - my new door had a new-old handle.

This handle and the other contents of the ramshackled basket came from an old log house that my husband and I had located back in the 70s near a community called West Montrose. With our sons, we took it apart, first the insul-brick covering, then the weathered board and batten silvered with age, and removed the interior wainscotting, doors and bits and pieces. The intention was to place on some property (40 acres across the Valley from where I live now) as a retirement home.

My brother and his family, young girls then, came to help once in a while because they lived nearby in Waterloo. It became a family project that has left us each with many stories and memories. My brother passed away three years ago, and his daughters live in British Columbia, but I have photos of those days. We all remember those days.

And the bits and pieces that we saved tweaks my memory as well. Obviously my husband had saved the porcelain handles and the other old handles and latches from the building. He was such a "keeper." Lucky for me these days when I find treasures like this.

In doing my research at that time I found the last remaining owner of the house. The property had been sold to the local conservation authority which was going to expand the acreage under its care and flood much of the farm land. So the log house whose owner was in a nursing home, had to go, as did the barn with its wonderful ever-flowing water fountain.

I located the owner. I wrote to her and learned the history of the home. It was built in 1837 by her father of what was called rock elm - heavy dense wood - plentiful in that area. 1837! Nearly two hundred years ago. The barn was enormous. I can't remember now what kind of a farm it was, but I would bet there was a little of everything, dairy and beef cattle, sheep, pigs and grain. She lived there with her brother until he died, and later she became to old to work the farm by herself. She was 83 or 84 when I finally located her. I need to find those letters which I kept and find out more.

The history of our countrysides, our homes wherever they are around the world, is too important to lose. So many of the stories of a people's history are captured in the minutiae of the daily activities of one or two families, or groups.

I strongly believe we need to remember our histories at this time in human kind's growth and development..

There is so much violence around the world, so many disasters. And so many groups coming together to try to right a wrong - whether it's a natural disaster or a human-created war or violent activity.

We need to remember that it was people coming together originally, in our dim past or recent past, that has allowed our species to prevail and flourish. A single human wasn't nearly as successful as a group in hunting, farming, any kind of occupation. It took more than one. Even a single sales person, needs another to sell to to complete a transaction. As groups small or large we can effect needed changes to bring about much needed peace and sharing the bounty of this wonderful planet in a much more sustainable way.

And so this doorknob has not only opened a door to a room in my old church - (perfect that it too was created back in the 1800s - 1870 to be exact). It has opened a door to a flood of memories and to some philosophic meanders which make me want to reach out and do something to help make those much-needed changes.

At this time of year - wherever you are, I hope something will prompt you to review some bit of history, and open a door that might affect how you think or feel. Who knows what will come of it? Perhaps something truly wonderful.


  1. Wonderful post! I loved the "opening doors" metaphor, it made me wonder what good things opening new doors holds for you. Well written, Barbara, and a pleasure to read!

  2. Thank you Bill - I really appreciate your kind words. I'll let you know soon what new doors mean for me.