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The Sign

Signs make a difference. They identify things to make our lives easier. Enter and exit. Men and women. Price tags. They tell you where to go, how much things cost, what you are looking at and in general allow us to understand without thinking so much.

The other day I was at the art museum and while I’m pretty good at figuring out what I’m looking at, reading the sign put up by the show’s curator sometimes brings me new insights. Who might have thought that a blank white canvas titled “Empty” was really a deep and penetrating examination of the loss of interaction and communication between individuals dwelling in our urban areas? That is a better, or at least more intellectually satisfying explanation of the blank canvass than would be scam artist trying to pull a fast one and expose the snobbery of art aficionados looking for a deeper meaning in a blank canvas slapped up on the wall as a joke. Jokes on you sucker!

Of course the same sign can have very different meanings for different people. That octagonal red sign so often seen on our streets means to some people “stop!” To others it means slow down a little, look both ways and speed on. And to still others it means nothing. Yesterday a sign was put in my front yard. It says “for sale.”

Twenty years ago I bought this piece of property and built a nice house. I’ve lived here with my family ever since. My two daughters grew up here and I’ve experienced all the joys and sadness of raising children here. I’ve painted the inside of the house and decorated it to reflect my style, taste and personality. I’ve planted trees and shrubs and flowers to make the outdoors satisfying to me. I’ve done many things here, all tucked away in my mind, some further back than others.

We have been talking of selling the house for sometime now. Ok, lets get it ready. And I’ve cleaned and scrubbed and painted and planted and beautified to make it appeal to another family. I’ve told myself that it’s a building with four walls and a roof. No emotional attachment. After all, I lived in my last house for seven years and never thought of it as mine. Selling the house will be like selling an empty picture frame at a yard sale.

My wife on the other hand talks about how emotional it all is. Our children grew up here. It’s been twenty years of our lives. I remind her that her family moved three times before she graduated from high school. And that my parents moved from the house where I lived for thirteen years the day after I graduated from high school. It’s just a house. Home is where the heart is. All that. The kids seem ok with the whole thing, but they do say that this is where they grew up.

And then the sign went up in the yard and I signed the deal with the real estate agent. I could feel my heart sink. This is my home. I’ve been here for twenty years. So many memories. Even the ones in deep storage came flooding back.

And now I look at selling the house as a matter of personal pride. This is the greatest house ever built and if you, Mr. and Mrs. Buyer, can’t see that then there is something dreadfully wrong with you. I’m waiting to be insulted with low ball offers. And I’m waiting for the perfect buyer to come along.

To a buyer, the sign says “this house is for sale, check it out.” For me, the sign says that a huge part of my life is about to change.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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Brighter Bulbs

For my own peace of mind I had to tell them.  Didn’t want them to think any other way.  Sure, I can still do it.  No problem.  It’s just, well, maybe its time to let someone else help a little more.  They have always relied on me for this although I have tried to get them to help in the past.  Back then they were not too interested.  Maybe now, if they want it done, they’ll have to help a lot more.

Since I fell, and broke my shoulder blade, they won’t let me do a lot of things anymore.  No climbing on ladders.  I have though.  And no carrying heavy objects.  I do.  Be careful!  We all know, even if we don’t say it, that I was very lucky, and next time, which they  are trying to prevent, I might not be.

So, the Christmas decorations will need some new installers.  I’ve always climbed up the ladder, beyond the safe step, and held the column with one hand and leaned waaaaaaaaay out to attach the string of icicle lights to the gutter on the front porch.  Or leaned the ladder against the wall and held on to nothing more than the mortar joints between the courses of bricks to reach high enough to get the string of lights attached to the gutter over the garage.

The ladder I use is a kind of medium size one.  Too short to easily reach these heights, but not so long as to be unmanageable.  I’ve set up a forty foot extension ladder by myself in the past.  Not easy, even when all your parts work.  So the daredevil contortions are necessary to get the job done.  One year I stood on the roof and leaned over to put the lights on the gutter, but I didn’t like that approach too much.

This year, I went to get my haircut and when I came home my youngest daughter had put up everything but the icicle lights.  And she did a great job of it too.  I adjusted a few placements here and there, just to look like I was still in charge, but she did it.  I still had to do the icicles.  But this year, instead of doing it by myself when everyone else was out shopping, the whole family was there.  Me on the ladder with my wife holding my feet, and my youngest holding the ladder and the oldest holding lights and reaching out to catch me.   The dog was just sitting there watching the whole thing.

I still had to do some daredevil things.  And I realized that I could fall.  I told my wife that this time the bushes would catch me.  More likely impale me.  But I was very careful to be very careful.  More so than in years past.

They put the lights on the Christmas tree too.  I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.  It’s always been my job.  But they did it.  Except for the few adjustments I made when they were done.  Still in command!

It’s hard to admit some things.  Like the fact that time brings changes.  Or that at some point we can’t do the things we used to.  In my mind its tough to accept the fact that my hair is turning grey.  But in their minds, I’m still the dad.  Still the husband.  Still superman.  But the torch is being passed.  And brighter bulbs will soon be in charge.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?  www.personalhistorywriter.com

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