Archives for category: nostalgia

Rick and I bought a used frame for a print we were given. It’s not an antique or anything (though it bore the label “vintage” in the eBay listing–which I doubt.) We have been known to go overboard on frames–buying period antique where the original warranted it–usually buying something beat up and restoring it to its former glory. This was not the case here. The print is fun–and represents a warm and fuzzy period in Rick’s past. We wanted the frame to be just that–fun.

It is. It has, however, a chalky faux-old paint finish. Usually when faced with such an item (and I’ve dealt with several), I clean it and protect it with a clear coat of flat acrylic. It makes it easy to dust and keep clean going forward. There are decisions to make, along the way. I’m not a great believer in preserving dirt. But some will argue that dirt is a part of the patina. Sometimes, if you strip away the dirt, what’s left is a blah piece, with no character. Since I’m no fan of filth, I take that risk.

This all reminds me that everything nostalgic has its own patina, as does our personal version of history. There are, after all, folks in this country waving the Confederate flag. Done right, peeling away the layers of time forces you to address what’s underneath, warts and all. This concept applies, whether you’re dealing with an antique, with your personal memories, or the larger picture of history, generally. The best we can do is to unpack it, with an open mind. Remove the dirt that just comes with age, but leave that which is part of the original–ugly or lovely, or both. Then re-evaluate.

Relieved of its patina of grime this little frame is exactly what we were looking for. After a quick protective coat, a matt, and some glass, this frame will do the print justice. And I guess that’s the best we can do.

When we were little, our village, St. Clair Beach, was a community that was always growing. The fields behind, and around our house, one by one, were excavated and then became new homes for new families. On weekends, we loved the empty construction sites. First there were enormous piles of dirt, literally fodder to all kids of childhood schemes and dreams. We rode our bikes up and over, we dug, we threw clods of clay in neighborhood turf wars, we investigated the new construction–figuring out the floor plans and wondering what new neighbors and lives would fill in these stick walls. My brother, my usual partner in crime, would collect lumber cut-offs and loose nails, and these materials would be transformed into tree forts, or go-carts.

Once, when I was about 8 and my brother was 9, we headed off to explore a new home up by the lake. It was a two story home, so well worth the trip to check it out–the new houses near us hadn’t been nearly so complicated.

So there we were, upstairs, examining the framing for the stairwell, my brother’s pockets loaded down with nails, when we heard somebody coming into the framed and sheathed shell of the house. My brother put his finger to his lips–but I didn’t need to be warned to shush. Maybe they’d come and go, without knowing we were there. No such luck.

Our visitor was none other than our local constable. We knew him from the bicycle safety events at our school. My eyes widened! We’d been caught by the cops! He used his sternest voice to interrogate us about what we were doing in the new house. He lectured us about the dangers of new construction and the rules about trespassing. He made my brother unload his pockets of his pillaged treasure and then marched us out to the police car. There, with the two of us, a matched set of tow-headed blonds, seated side by side in the back seat, he asked me my name. Near tears, I blurted, “Alta Walters.” He nodded and turned to my brother, “And you, young man, what is your name?” My brother didn’t miss a beat– “Dave Cadieux.”*

My jaw dropped in shock. I don’t know how the officer kept a straight face. He proceeded to drive us to our crescent, and drop us off, warning that if we were caught again, he’d have to speak to our parents.

*Dave was my brother’s friend and our next door neighbor.