Wednesday, March 13, 2013

L. Albert

Those Old Mayonnaise Jars
My grandfather was a rock.
I used to think that everyone’s grandparents were. I know better now. Living has taught me that.
As I open the door and head downstairs, my nostrils are filled with the aroma of freshly cut pine. I make my way to the bottom and find my seat on the bottom stair, amid the the loud screaming sound of a circular saw spewing sawdust everywhere from its perch in the middle of the workshop. There are two more large saws and a lathe occupying space around the room. Above me in the ceiling, are many mayonnaise jars nailed to the ceiling holding assorted items of his trade. Eyeing the bottoms of the glass jars, he knew exactly which screws, nails or bolts he needed for the job. It was one of his little ways to organize his ‘underworld’. There were always pieces of unfinished furniture stacked against the back wall waiting to be completed. Off to the left, is his finishing bench, where he does his final varnishing, shellacking and painting. Most days he works with over an inch of cut sawdust at his feet. It smells so sweet to me. Hanging on the wall, his Eastern Tractor calendar helps to keep this workshop in monthly time. It is a world away from the world I know, but I sit fascinated by this master cabinetmaker and the the pieces of furniture he turns out
When not working on furniture or some toy for a loving grandchild, my grandfather, Albert could be found in his overstuffed, yellow, leather chair. He was a quiet man. He seemed to be able to occupy a conversation, quietly from aside in his flannel shirt and red suspenders. He had a full head of white hair well into his 80’s with glasses framing his face. Encircling his head seemed to be an endless swirl of pipe tobacco.
I was the oldest grandchild and was special to this man, at least in my world I was. He spoiled me rotten!  A surprise car ride to the countryside, a quarter stuffed deep in my hollowed hand, away from Mom’s eyes, or just time spent in his lap keeping time to fiddling music were magic moments for me. 
Once I asked, no begged him, to take me on my first fishing trip and to my delight he said, “Yes, let’s go!”  
So off we went, in his black Chevy coupe, heading towards Portland. We stopped at water, that I know now as the Stroudwater Village dam, near the waterfall that is still there today. Grampa brought out his tackle box and spread feathery lures and dirty worms out across the grass. He showed me how to attach a worm to the sharp hook and all the other little nuances to the game of fishing. It was a fun afternoon, and we even sat back and enjoyed a picnic lunch packed by Nana. As the afternoon waned, I finally got my ‘bite’. As I reeled in my catch in, I was some excited. Sunfish? Perch? What would it be? However, disappointment soon ruled. My ‘fish’ broke the surface and was unbelievably just an old, black buckled boot, filled with disgusting slimy, yellow mud. Yuk! But it was a day! Etched in my memory forever. I’m lucky. I have a lot of these.
Whether it was sitting on the bottom steps of the workshop, staring at those mayonnaise jars in the ceiling, on a summer afternoon fishing trip, or just sitting back and taking in the aroma of his Prince Albert in a can, this man was a rock in my life.
 If he only knew that I think of him almost everyday... 
Maybe he does. 


  1. what a rich legacy you have!

    ALOHA from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral
    ~ > < } } ( ° > <3

  2. You and I are lucky enough to have shared many fabulous moments with great persons!

  3. so beautiful, birdman. thank you for these memories. your grandfather and mr. brattcat have more than a few things in common.

  4. i loved this. thank you for sharing this wonderful man with us. i never knew any of my grandparents (last one died when i was 1). thank you for transporting us back to that basement workshop...

  5. Oh how I hope that something I do is as meaningful to someone. Great flood of memories.......

  6. Wow, you have no idea how this post touched me. First when I opened your sight and saw that photo of my very own grandfather. Upon closer inspection I saw that it wasn't my grandfather after all but, I swear they could have been brothers. Then your memories got me because mine are so very similar. My grandfather smoked a pipe and I used to love the smell of the pipe tobacco. I remember a beautifully crafted, wooden tobacco holder surrounded by a pipe holder that used to sit on his bookshelf. I loved examining all those pipes and their different shapes and sizes. He even had a good old fashioned Sherlock Holmes-style pipe. He was also a craftsman and piles of sawdust could always be found in his workshop and you are so right, it did smell sweet. Of course, he had granddaughters and no grandsons so we never went fishing, but we would play for hours in his apartment with paper dolls covering every inch of his floor. I will have to locate a photo of him and send it to you so you can see the resemblance. It is quite striking.

  7. Sharon told me to take a look at your Grandfather and I'm glad she did. What sweet memories that brings back and yes Sharon is right it does look like our own Grandfather. (Sharon and I are sisters)
    Anyway, Thanks for the memories.

  8. What a nice story about your grandfather. He sure sounds like he was a rock for you. Very handsome too -- barbara

  9. Well, this brought tears to my eyes. How wonderful that you had such a special person in your young life.

  10. Fascinating and a very nice tribute!

  11. Nice memories. You are fortunate to have them, so that the smell of freshly sawn pine and conjure up your grandfather for you. These aren't my memories of the only one who was around when I was little, but I think I will just steal them and pretend that they are mine.

  12. I'm sure he does Birdman. I didn't know either of my grandads, so you are super lucky.