Sunday, April 23, 2017

End of an Era

Growing up, we spent countless summer weekends at my grandparents' summer place on the Sassafras River on the upper eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. It is safe to say that I have more happy memories tied to this place than to any other on earth. And that is saying something, given that I have had the great good fortune to be one of those lucky people to have had a happy childhood, youth, young adulthood (and adulthood for that matter).

Brother Dave and I, and many of our friends over the years, swam like fish. Boated. Fished. Learned to water ski. Stayed up way too late and got up way too early. Got stitches. Threw baseballs. Played with those big metal lawn darts that are illegal now. Played badminton. And volleyball. Flashlight tag at night. Searched for indian arrow heads (finding some). Got fish hooks stuck in places where fish hooks shouldn't get stuck. Wandered off in a row boat for hours on end. Snuck a few beers when we were older. In short, we had a childhood. And a pretty wonderful one at that.
Kids fishing on the pier

As for the house itself, it was built in the 19-teens as a two family fishing and hunting lodge. My grandfather bought it in the late 1950's. He added a second story, and a bulkhead along the waterline where there had been beach before. Over the years a series of renovations were done. These were well-intentioned but not particularly well-planned or well-executed. The floor plan got...odd. The plumbing and electrical systems were overmatched. Of greater concern was the fact that the house was built on a foundation of nothing very substantial. We used to laugh that if you went down into the little basement area and looked out through the crawl spaces, you would see that the only thing holding up the house was a few cinder blocks, a couple of stumps and a few little posts. Sadly, this was not really an exaggeration.
Fishing off the bulkhead at dusk

All of which led to periodic discussions of rebuilding the house. As in knocking it down and starting over. My grandparents passed in 1984 and 1999, and my mom has been the owner of the house since then. For a long time, the idea of demolishing the old house was mentioned from time to time, but not seriously considered. Dad didn't see the value in the cost (understandable), and Mom couldn't bear the thought of knocking down the house that had been so important to all of us (also understandable).

As is the case with the passing of time, things change, and to skip ahead, the house that my grandfather referred to as the Triangle Lodge (due to the triangle shaped lot that the house sat on), is no more.  After the better part of a year of studies, applications, public hearings and finally permits, demolition began a week or so ago.
Beginning the tear-down

A few days later, nothing was left but the last few remnants of rubble from the tear-down. As excited as I am about the prospect of a nice new modern house that will be a pleasure to stay in, and that will more readily allow my kids to have many of the great experiences that I had here, there is also a sadness. A very deep sadness.
Where a special house used to be

The old house, for all its increasingly hard to live with limitations, is (was) the summer house of my childhood. The original sections of the house, made of hand-fitted tongue and groove pine planking, cannot be replaced. Nor can the fact that it was the house where Grandpop grew tomatoes and cucumbers in the garden beyond the carport. Where Grandmom and Aunt Sandy made weekend dinners. Where hand-washing the dishes was a group family ritual because there wasn't a dishwasher in the original tiny kitchen. The refrigerator on the porch. Where Uncle Dick would sometimes come down and spend time with the rest of us. Where Dad taught me to fish, and played catch with Dave and I. They are all gone and now so is the house; an all-too-visceral reminder of the passing of time.
Sunset west/northwest beyond Ordinary Point

So time marches on, and things improve in their way, but it is also not a bad thing to pause and reflect on the past, and what it means to us. In this case, it means more than I can say, and I sincerely hope that the ghosts of the past will take up residence in the new house that will be built on this spot. I can't imagine the River without them...

1 comment:

  1. Very well said. I have a similar (identical?) post in the queue.