Saturday, October 2, 2010

Watching From the Window

Robert Foster (1938-1988)
My memory of what I consider to be our first house is very special to me.  My dad was a mathematical statistician who worked for US Civil Services in the 60's and 70's.  Parents did not talk much back then to young children as they do now.  The first house we lived in was the first one that my parents purchased.  One day as I looked out the living room window of this house, I saw my father building another house.

I had heard no mention of this, but it fascinated me as I watched from next door as he progressed from the foundation to the roofing.  I can not remember how long it took, but it did not seem long.  It was a ranch style brick home.  He, with great pride, took our family on a tour when it was finished.

I was most fascinated by the dining room which was separated by a varnished, knotty pine wall with a window providing a view to the kitchen.  My father helped a lot of family members move to the North from Tennessee.  I was oblivious to the struggles of African American during the 60's and 70's.  The house we lived in was much bigger with two stories and a full basement, but I looked proudly at my dad on our tour and asked,  "Can we move here?"  He responded without hesitation, "Yes."

I was so happy to live in a place my father had built on the corner of Cutter and Woodruff in Joliet, Illinois.  I was very young, but I helped to keep that house clean to show my appreciation.  I climbed upon a chair to reach the kitchen sink.  I started washing dishes and cooking meals without being asked.

One day as my dad was in the living room watching me while I was literally on my hands and knees hand washing the hardwood floor without being asked.  He looked down at me and said, "Do not ever do that for someone else, okay?"  I did not know why he made that request then, but I promised I would not.

It is funny how the things we see our parents and grandparents do sticks with us.  My dad built four more houses and each time I asked, "Can we move here?"  My dad always said, yes.  I think he appreciated how proud I was each time.  We only lived in two of the others houses he built. He turned to renovating older homes.

My dad would give odd jobs to the young boys and older men in the neighborhood who struggled.  Some did not have food to eat. He even became a surrogate father to some boys, visiting their schools and buying graduation attire.  He always insisted they take all the math courses they could in high school.  I was always jealous because I felt I shared my dad with so many strangers, but some of them today have their own businesses performing services form the skills which he taught them.

I miss my dad, but I discovered where he acquired his skills and talents when I came across his father's, James Foster, carpenter's union dues register.  He was a traveling carpenter.  How grateful I am to have been blessed by skills that were passed down by my grandfather.

Local Union 586, Sacramento, California, Carpenter's Union dues book, 1954

1 comment:

  1. That must have been wonderful to watch him build all those houses!