Every evening, I walk my pooch Charlie through an older neighborhood full of old homes. Each old home is different from the next and they all have that charm and personality that I always find inspiring and delightful.
I have found some of the old home elements that were removed from these old homes on the curb and have struck gold with things like tons white chippy wooden bead board, an old mail box and a wooden pedestal base from an old wooden table.
I’ve also seen some things, from the street that are not on the curb but are buried in someone’s open garage, side yard or even in the far reaches of their back yard. I’ve seen old wooden extensions ladders, weathered metal patio chairs, school lockers, wooden church pews and metal carts.
I’m always so tempted to knock on the front door of these homes and ask if they would be willing to sell these things that I have a suspicion have long ago been forgotten. It doesn’t hurt to ask and the worst thing that can happen is to be told no.
One day, recently, I was pushed over the edge by temptation and just had to approach the owner of an irresistible treasure- an old one person sailboat. I couldn’t tell if it was wooden or fiberglass, and this lack of information was killing me. It was weathered, worn and had been leaning against the side of the property owner’s house for years. I knew this because every time Charlie and I would walk past this particular home we would look at the sail boat.
I noticed the owner was out in his garage, I had Mr. Old House Chic with me and I had been rehearsing my plan of approaching the owner of the sailboat for months- conditions were perfect. I handed off Charlie’s leash to Mr. Old House Chic and told him that I was going to talk to a man about a boat. Mr. Old House Chic looked cluelessly at me and said, “What?!” to my fading back.
I walked towards the open garage, willing the man to notice me. People get irritated and startled when someone walks onto their property and catches them unaware. I know I do- I was using a power sander on my Big Beast Challenge and was totally lost in thought to the hypnotic hum, when I happened to look up and saw a salesman, standing in my driveway, 10 feet away and staring at me. When I turned off the sander, he said, “This is when you ask how long have I been standing here.” I replied, “No. What I would ask is, when I failed to notice you and was obviously busy, why didn’t you leave?” He left. I understand, completely, why someone gets grumpy with intruders. I felt vulnerable, stupidly oblivious and unsafe in that moment.
As luck would have it, the older man looked up in time to notice me and smiled as I approached. I called out a hello and then started to explained how I noticed his little boat on the side of his garage while walking my dog everyday and just had to ask about it. The older man replied, “That old thing?” I smiled encouragingly and said, “It’s such a neat boat. Is it wooden?” The older man went on to explain that it was not wooden, it was fiberglass and it was built in the 1950’s. He learned how to sail by way of this little boat off the coast of California and so did his son. The older man chuckled and said that his son decided to sail to the Queen Mary from their home a ways away from Long Beach, CA and got caught in the current. He was carried out to sea and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard after it was apparent that he would not be able to sail back to shore. This daring captain of his tiny sail boat had risked dying of only boredom as the happy and courageous little sail boat kept them afloat and on a happy course toward an adventure on the high seas.
I pointed towards a word scrawled on the back of the little boat that said Sisu. The older man smiled again and said, “It’s Finnish for determination, bravery, perseverance and resilience.” This little boat was named Sisu. I fell in love, right then and there.
I knew there was no chance that this older man would ever sell this boat full of memories but then he said, “It’s funny that you asked about it- I’ve been cleaning up around here and I was trying to figure out how small I was going to have to cut it up in order to fit it in our dumpster.”
“No!” I said before I could even formulate a better thought. “Can I buy it from you?!” I knew I had a desperate and pleading look on my face. How could anyone throw away history like that? As if he knew exactly what I was thinking, the older man said, “It’s just been sitting back here for years- 15 years, I think. It’s time to move on.” What a shame.
I was determined to rescue this little boat and said, “Would you take $50 for it?” The man looked incredulously at me as if I should just leave him to the task of chopping it up and throwing it out. “You want to give me $50 for it?!” “Yes, sir.” I replied with absolute certainty. “Okay…” he said hesitantly as if this was all some big joke being played on him. “Are you going to fix it up?” he asked. “I don’t know.” I said. And I really didn’t. All I knew was that this proud little boat deserved better than to be chopped up and thrown out. The older man agreed to the sale and we made arrangements for me to pick it up.
You just never know what unexpected treasures will brighten your day and join you on a new course through life, I thought as I jogged towards Mr. Old House Chic and Charlie. When I caught up to them, Mr. Old House Chic said, “Did you just rescue a boat?” Yes, I did.