The Cross House
Another project this afternoon was mowing the grass.
For weeks it has been blistering hot, but today it “cooled” to just really hot. But really hot (and humid) is only fractionally better than blistering hot.
This is SO not conducive to mowing the lawn.
I had a young pup willing to do it, Josh, but he texted that he was uncertain if he could come by today. Ugh.
The lawn was already higher than I had ever allowed it, due to a broken mower, so waiting another day was kinda freaking me out. Plus, I am having guests tomorrow!
Since buying the house, the lawn has been religiously mowed to golf-course standards. While the exterior of the house is in various stages of presentability (some parts look great; most parts look disturbingly pitiful), and I can’t do much about this, I can control the lawn.
This is an old-house philosophy of mine: do whatever you can to be a good neighbor.
So while the house looks great from X angle, and like something waiting for a demolition permit from most other angles, I find it really really really helps if the lawn is kept immaculate, and all its edges maniacally trimmed. Oh, and a pair of…
Oh, and clean windows matter!
I think these things make a big difference to my neighbors, and to the city (the Cross House is highly visible). A trim lawn, clean windows, and some potted flowers make it clear that the house is loved and being cared for. So, while the exterior restoration will take years, anybody walking or driving by cannot help but get the impression that something is happening. Perhaps even something magical.
HAROLD & WILMA
Just after starting my lighting restoration business in 2007, I kept hearing about Harold and Wilma.
“Have you met Harold and Wilma yet?”
“Oh! You HAVE to meet Harold and Wilma!”
“You really remind me of Harold and Wilma!”
It seemed that Harold and Wilma, and I, did, indeed, have a strong connection. As I learned, they, too, loved old lighting and had, it seemed, amassed a huge collection. Which they wanted to sell.
Which they wanted to sell.
I was breathless.
Finally, I got their phone number and an appointment was made. The couple lived 3-1/2-hours away, due west.
For the next two years, I drove to visit Harold and Wilma, and ended up purchasing most of their large stock. I also got to know them. And was awestruck.
For most of his life, Harold drove a milk truck from Hutchinson, KS, to Kansas City, MO. He would leave at like 11PM, then drive 3-1/2 hours to Kansas City. He dropped off the milk, then drove back to Hutchinson.
He did this for like thirty years! This job would have killed me in six months, but Harold loved it. He LOVES driving. When their three kids were young, Harold and Wilma would pack them into the car, spin a compass, and then head out in that direction to discover something new.
Harold finally retired, but, insatiably curious, he and Wilma just kept on driving. Along each trip, they would stop in antique stores and junk shops and salvage yards (people after my own heart) and buy old lights. In not much time at all, this turned into a second career, and their basement was soon stuffed with old lights. Then their garage. Then an an old building (a former corner grocery store) was rented. Then a steel building.
Yep, people after my own heart.
Harold restored many of these lights, which they sold word-of-mouth, and at the monthly flea market in Wichita.
By some miracle, just when Harold and Wilma realized that they should start downsizing, I arrived in their life. Being shown their storage buildings was like being escorted into Aladdin’s Cave. I was gobsmacked.
Each buying trip (there would be many) was also an opportunity to get to know the couple better. And the more I learned the more dazzled I was. One hears the phrase salt of the Earth, but Harold and Wilma personified this. Although now elderly, they were always helping other elderly and less mobile people. They thought nothing about venturing out during a heat wave to clean up a semi-delict house (washing windows and trimming back overgrowth). When I asked them why they were doing this, they replied: “Because it needs it.” They fretted each winter that wild birds were not getting enough food.
One day I drove to their town not to buy more treasures, but to tour a Lustron House which was now a museum. Harold and Wilma had been, of course, instrumental in saving it from demolition, and getting it turned into a museum. It was the first time I had been in a Lustron, and was thrilled thrilled thrilled.
Then one day I received an email.
Wilma had severely hurt her back. It was bad. Very bad. Then several years passed and I received only intermittent news.
Then came even worse news. The worst.
A world without Wilma? How was this possible?
Since buying the Cross House, I had been eager to give a grand tour for Harold and Wilma.
And tomorrow…tomorrow…Harold is coming, joined by his daughter. Although the reunion will be a bit bittersweet, I am sooooooooooooo excited.
So, damn the heat, the damn grass had to be cut today!
Also tomorrow, is a tour for about a dozen people from a writer’s group. Writers! They contacted me and I replied: “Sure!”
I got most of the lawn cut and edged.
I was dripping wet.
While finishing, Sharol stopped by briefly. As I stood, imitating a built-in pool, we chatted about politics. Or, rather, perhaps I chatted about politics. But Sharol was gracious and it is always nice seeing her.
At last, the damn grass was cut, I mopped myself off, changed into a dry shirt (is anything better than a dry shirt?), and drove home.
Upon arrival, I could not get out of the car. My body was just locked into place. I felt as if I had been run over by not one, not two, but…