Our first house had three porches, two of which were technically front porches. I used to take a rag tag bunch of tapestries and fashion flowy, sun dappled forts for the girls. We’d sit on the old, slat wood porches, peeking between the fabric and railing to whisper about passing cars. Sometimes I’d watch the girls, legs akimbo sleeping on sofa cushions with snack scraps scattered every which way. Leaning against the outside wall of our house I’d look down at my toes, the teal and magenta tapestries fluttering below, content that I’d made something from very little and that it had made the girls so happy.
I still build forts, though we no longer have those three porches. When I’m not constructing play areas, I tend to be doing a parallel type thing for work. Last week it was figuring out how to display scarves at Nine. Who knew it would be such a challenge? You can’t fold them, those figure 8, swoopy knot things they do at some shops are beyond me, and if you aren’t careful with how your drape them, they’ll just look like the towels covering the treadmill or ironing board in your basement.
We hossed them over to the store. Ok, I pushed them to the stairs and then Sean grunted his way down the very steep stairs with them, while I held the door. Once they were moved, I was on my own.
I gathered my supplies—braided rope, staple gun, chisel, sand paper, scraper, sudsy water, and wood oil. I sanded and scrubbed the the top and underside of the very heavy dollies.
It was in the middle of the cleaning that I got word about Patrick. Submerging myself in the process of removing the layers of grime and sanding the handles down to a smooth finish was the perfect kind of oblivion as a steady rain fell beyond the windows. I broke an impressive sweat, shed many private tears and made a proper mess of the floor and myself.
I felt like I got to know the wood as I took notice of the faded blue paint, caught the grooves of lettering along the sides and imagined the calloused hands and sinewy arms that likely pushed these things years and years ago. There was pride and honor in the process of reclaiming these pieces and carving a new purpose for them. I laughed imagining the original owners hearing the carts would one day be used for scarves.
The wrapping took more concentration and attempts than you might think. I was short on rope and had to make an emergency run for additional lengths. After a time I began to develop a rhythm and the rungs before me started to pop.
The second one was smaller and had a piece of metal, a brake I think, that had given me incredible grief as I worked. It would jam in one position and then out of nowhere slip out and startle me. Miraculously, when I finished wrapping the last bit, it sat still. I watched it, waiting for it to slip, but it stayed. I smiled. “Done.”
We rolled them both into the store and looked around. So many different pieces that started as dusty, dinged up and forgotten things now stand as gleaming building blocks of our displays. I remember the road we traveled with the 1958 Lyman boat we salvaged from a ship graveyard and then resuscitated, and the 12 foot general store counter we unearthed and hauled out of a barn, and the nearly 18′ laundry table from a monastery (all of which literally bore way more amounts of animal/bird fecal matter than you could ever imagine.) The feeling I have is so close to the fort thing, watching something that is so right because of hard work and imagination. And in this case, with the whole thing being draped with beautiful swaths of fabric, well it feels like my something-from-nothing gift has come full circle.
*The best forts are the ones we share. If you are ever in Glens Falls, let me know and I’ll give you a tour of the shop. We can grab a bite at the brew pub. If you’d ever like to make an order, shoot me an email and I can make the exchange more human. And another thing, don’t ever think you can’t build a fort of your own, whether that translates to a literal fort or something else, we can all make things.
Just have to try.