My Mother’s Rolodex
I think I inherited it from my mother.
She grew up in a middle-class family in Connecticut, married too young, had three children, and with my dad built a sturdy middle class life in a Boston suburb. Along the way she ran the house, played tennis, smoked, drank gin and tonics, read, volunteered, went back to college and got her degree, and worked as a counselor.
She had a passion for the unique and authentic. Her Rolodex was a road map of her travels and a treasure trove of special people and things.
She saw the benches in the Yale University Art Gallery, tracked down the Finnish woodworker in New Haven who had built them for the Louis Kahn (My Architect: My Son’s Journey) designed building, and commissioned two for our living room.
She found the guy in Worcester who would sand-blast old radiators… and pick up and deliver. The gas station somewhere who would nickel-plate old bathroom fixtures. The people who would custom paint your refrigerator to match the kitchen paint. The place with the barn full of old light fixtures, for original school house milk glass. The chicken farmer’s enormous barn in Connecticut full of old doors and mantels. The guys who mostly did restorations of altar pieces for churches but who would also re-finish my brother’s cherished brass bed. Somebody in the Carolinas for just the right recycled wood for an old-new kitchen floor.
She found out that you could salvage hunks of exotic wood in the city dump in Honolulu … and carry them home on the plane as luggage. Years later, she found a furniture builder out in the Berkshires just over the New York border who would lovingly turn that gorgeous wood into unique pieces of furniture that came with unique stories.
She could make these people scratch their heads. Metal gutters would be cheaper and better. No, this house is 150 years old, the gutters have to be wood. I don’t want foam cushions – why can’t you stuff them with horse hair? Can you repave the driveway so it looks old?
As I say, I think I got it from her.