One Saturday morning many years ago, I decided to have a piece of an old quilt framed. It had hung over a chair in our living room for quite some time, but it was very old and fragile. Years before that, I had pulled it from a trash pile when my parents were cleaning out the attic. The story behind it was that the same woman who made my grandmother Grace’s (maternal side) wedding dress had also made it and it was separated into pieces. The center portion was made in the mid to late 1800s. Understandably, my mom wasn’t really sure what to do with it. I thought it was beautiful and figured I could do something with it. Someday. And one day, I drove it to the frame shop and when the owner told me what it would cost, I gasped. It was more than I could afford at the time, but I did it anyway. The results were as stunning as I had envisioned in my parents’ garage that day. I brought it home to our townhouse and tried to figure out what to do with it. It was too big for any spot we had.
A few months later, when my husband and I were searching for our first house, I happened to take one more look at all of the listings on a Saturday morning. We had seemed to exhaust all of the potential houses on the market and nothing was working out. One new one popped up that day. It was on Grace Court. I called immediately. It was in the part of town we wanted to be in. It looked beautiful. It had a finished castle playroom for the baby I was yearning for after a miscarriage. A huge snowstorm kept the realtors from having a walk though — it surely would have sold in a day otherwise. We walked through it. It was perfect. I gasped again (not good at poker faces) and I think my husband knew it was a done deal. It was more than we could afford at the time, but we did it anyway. And two weeks after we closed on the house on Grace Court, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, who would be named Madeline Grace.
We lived on Grace Court for 13 years. And the quilt had a perfect spot above the fireplace the whole time. And there was always a connection to my maternal grandmother.
When we were moving to Long Island, our first house deal fell through. We couldn’t find anything and packed up in the car and went back to look at houses again. Our realtor shared a listing for a house that looked perfect. And it instantly reminded me of my grandparent’s farmhouse (paternal side) that I ran around in and explored for most of my childhood. When I saw what it cost, I gasped. It was way more than we could afford. And then we saw it and were told that it was a corporate buy out and the owners would take a lot less. It was still more than we could comfortably afford, but we got the house and did it anyway.
The antique pottery that my parents had given me years before which was imprinted with my great grandfather’s business name matched my new kitchen perfectly. The colors might as well have been color matched. The way the power and phone lines hooked into the second floor of my house (and not below ground) looked just like my grandparent’s farmhouse. The little places to explore made me feel like I was there again.
One weekend recently, we decided to take a little drive for lunch. I saw on social media there was a new place in Patchogue called That Meatball Place. I didn’t have a particular desire for meatballs that day, but it was one of many towns we hadn’t explored and the beer list looked good (an important part of a weekend lunch). The kids didn’t want to go, but we did it anyway. When we walked in, it was a very cool atmosphere with lots of old barn wood in a completely new restaurant build out. From the moment we sat down, the service was great and they handled Madeline’s allergies perfectly. We had a very nice lunch. When my husband went to the bathroom before we left, he came back with an astonished look on his face. He explained that there was a sign outside the bathroom that said all of the reclaimed barn wood in the restaurant came from a barn in Bloomsburg, PA. Our little hometown where we both grew up. This was absurd. We moved to Long Island to randomly find a restaurant with wood from Bloomsburg? What were the odds?
I inquired a little more. What barn? He said “Twin Hills Barn.” That was weird. I grew up in a development called Twin Hills, but the barn picture didn’t look familiar — it had Twin Hills painted on the side. I inquired more and then it occurred to me that the barn at my grandfather’s farmhouse had been torn down after he died. I called my parents on the way home. Were there other barns in that part of town I didn’t know about? My dad drove around and confirmed the only other barn there was still standing. He remembered that one of the first things my grandfather did when he bought that barn was to reside the whole thing. And if you knew my grandfather, you would expect nothing less. He never met a project he didn’t like. So, it might have had the “Twin Hills” underneath it the whole time.
I called the restaurant and they gave me the name of the company that they got the wood from. I called the company and the nice woman on the other end of the phone was excited by the story and knew the barn well. “That’s the one from Surrey Lane in Bloomsburg.”
My address. We both gasped and then sat on the phone in silence for a few minutes.
We had moved to Long Island and randomly found my grandfather’s barn repurposed into a restaurant. Had we not moved, no one in my family would probably have any clue where it went. His hardworking spirit and energy were in those walls. The barn door that he swung many times was hanging there.
Our Long Island adventure had meaning. And it connected me to my paternal grandparents.
My maternal grandmother Grace died in January one month before her 101st birthday. (I talked about her a lot here and here and here.) And Grace Court is now in my past. My connection to her was deep and her focus on music and art and writing helped shape me as a person. My paternal grandparents’ hard working spirit has become evident to me as well — I have done things in the last 18 months that I never knew I could. My strong will has never been stronger. I was afraid of many things, but I did it anyway.
And I am seeing that fate takes us to interesting places, deeply connected to our past and touching on parts of our spirit that help lead us to the future — if we allow ourselves to see it. The quilt still hangs on my wall. The pottery still sits on my shelves. The lightning rod from the barn will soon be in my hands — a leftover from the restaurant project. I suddenly feel as though the meaning of my last 15 or so years has been to honor the legacy of my parents and grandparents. But that has turned into a mandate to create my own future. Somehow it feels time to create my own legacy. I have created the children. Perhaps it is time to make the relics that my own grandchildren will tell stories about.
What will be crazy or costly or hard that I will do anyway? What will my story be?