“I do not know how I may seem to others, but to myself I am only a small child wandering upon the vast shores of knowledge, every now and then finding a small bright pebble to be contented with.” 

– Plato

            The foundation of our home is constructed of Wisconsin boulder, which is a hard granite that not only forms a strong and durable base on which to build a house, but also sparkles in the sunshine on a hot Saturday afternoon.  Tiny crystals laced throughout the stone shine almost shyly from this natural formation seen in granite quarries through-out the mid-west. When the sun hits the boulders just right the crystal veins glow in contrast with the duller surfaces, and the foundation of our house seems to actually shimmer in the daylight.   

 When we first saw our house, after our shock at seeing a four-square Victorian sprouting up and out of a hill like a blue hydrangea flower, what struck us was that the house appears to be sitting atop walls of ancient stone, much like the stone walls of old Jerusalem.  Starting at the ground, granite rocks lying one on top of the other in a random pattern, form rivulets of silver and bluish grey, with deep purple splotches.  Three to four feet high, these rocks build a fortress of stone for our house to stand on.  The stone seems proud of itself in how sturdy it has been for so many years, not only standing guard, but providing a secure base for the wood frame structure built above.  The large stones, which are so round as to be surprisingly soft and organic in appearance, make a perfect platform for building all sorts of things.  Undulating walls of large granite stone, blues and greys the predominant colors, line driveways and gardens of older homes as you approach the Wisconsin border, only 25 miles away from our home in Woodstock.

At our home, the simplicity of the gun metal gray wood clapboard siding is wonderful in its linear contrast to the varied pattern of the stone below.  I was unsure of the durability of this foundation of stone, thinking that perhaps it was going to crumble beneath the weight of three floors of house above. Andy told me that what had held for 100 years would hold for 100 more. This confident resilience would become our constant encouragement as we plunged headlong into renovating the basement.

Initially, I came to the conclusion that too much Wisconsin boulder had been ordered when our house was built since it is also evident in the basement, forming multiple small rooms where spiders live contentedly.  Partition walls built of old wood also form maze-like passageways throughout the basement which add confusion to the space.  I grew accustomed to the boulders on the outside of the house, since the character factor added to the overall charm, but seeing these same boulders from the inside made me feel as though I lived within a fort and we had the dirt floor to go with it. Andy told me that the stone rooms would have been used to keep beets, carrots, other root vegetables and even some salted meats in cold storage among ice blocks set in straw and delivered weekly.  Prior to our renovation, apparently these same rooms were used as make-shift wine cellars. The empty bottles strewn about were clues, or perhaps a squatter needed a warm place to sleep one winter. 

Inside the basement, long ago, someone had taken a bucket of thin white skim coat plaster and attempted to smooth out sections of the large rocks.  This only made the walls appear diseased.  Large white bumps of varying sizes and shapes, dimpled with blackheads, could be seen in corners and on some patches of wall here and there.  I imagine that a lazy worker had been told to plaster the stone walls.  He then filled a bucket with a tired concoction of pasty white goop, and half-heartedly flicked this off of a wide old brush in the general direction of the walls.  It appears that this technique would work well if a splattering of plaster is desired, but an apathetic, half-hearted approach to camouflaging this resilient stone would never succeed.  Either cover it completely behind boards, or let it be splendid with all the inherent qualities that rocks possess.

When I was a young girl, I didn’t understand rocks and had little appreciation for them.  I never gave them much thought until my Mom began to call my older brother Todd her rock. She didn’t say this often, perhaps two or three times that I can remember over the course of decades, but it caught my attention.  I admit that this offended me slightly at the time.  I thought that I brought a certain dependability to our six children household.  Being the oldest girl, I babysat my younger siblings, went to the grocery store on my bicycle for the missing dinner items, pedaling home with a loaf of French bread sticking out of the basket on the front of my Schwinn.  I cleaned and scrubbed and straightened and folded, carrying laundry to the correct bedrooms. I cooked with my Mother, who quadrupled every recipe.  We mixed cookie dough in enormous bowls with our hands, my Mom making her famous chocolate chip recipe, me making peanut butter balls beside her. 

Todd led the troops with a quiet confidence that I have come to admire and wish I could emulate, but our personalities are as different as the sea from the shore.  For every calm and solid influence and action of Todd, I brought unbridled and emotional over-reaction.  My organizational skills rescued me from being inappropriate, but I was loud and known to blurt out words without thinking first.  Todd never blurted.  It wasn’t that I was undependable, but I was more like water than stone. I was less predictable than Todd and, while I ran over rocks and stones paying them no mind, Todd steadied the shore and never complained at the stability he provided as the oldest of six children.  

Rocks are just there.  We may lift one now and then, carrying it to a new location as though the rock didn’t know where it was supposed to be, but we don’t see them being formed. Rocks are inherent and stable and steady.  They stand guard – waiting even – patient and steadfast, content to be used for a purpose of our imagining.

 Andy is our rock.  He likes the ember burning behind my eyes and understands that it holds a mystery that lives inside of me that cannot always be explained.  I struggle sometimes to express all that my soul holds and Andy peaks inside, keeping me safe and secure even when I thrash through the brush chasing an imaginary idea.  The girls sense this too and it makes them feel safe.  When they used to call in the middle of the night from time to time, to explain that their car broke down and that they were lost, they would ask for Andy.  Andy would get up, grunting his displeasure at having to rescue yet another girl (“Don’t we have enough?”), but he took pleasure in his dependability.  With four married daughters, and three grand-daughters, Andy bellows his warmth, “Can no one produce a man child?” We smile, knowing the vast and bottomless depth of his heart where we cling to his stability as our safe haven. We love his spit and swagger and gentle shoulder of strength that is the spirit of this man.  We love the thud of his boots and the clench of his jaw and the deepness of his man voice.  The granite from Wisconsin holds up our house and Andy holds up everything else.

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