This past week was the fifth yahrtzeit of my grandfather, Sam Kalchman. I wrote this about him nine years ago. My Zeida gave me much of my early work experiences such as working in his scrapyard in Keswick, Ontario and working the cash at his 7-11 type variety store that he owned in Toronto. But this one below was my most memorable.
The Honeymoon Suite
It is nothing special, really, when you look at it. Not much more than a shack in fact. And while it may be a very non-descript little structure for most people, at the same time it has a lot of history and meaning for others.
I loved my first year of camp. I was in Section 1 Cabin 1 with all my little friends at Camp Northland in Haliburton, Ontario. But the following year was a different story. Owing to the curse of being born “late” in the year, I was placed in Cabin 2 instead of Cabin 3 with none of my friends from the previous year. Alas I was stuck with a bunch of kids I did not know, and who were in a younger grade than me. I was miserable and home sick the whole three weeks.
This was back in the day when parents did not swoop in and save their little children the moment any uncomfortable circumstances arose that may have scarred them for life. Or strengthened them, it’s all in how you look at it I guess. No, there were no frantic emails nor crying cell-phone calls to Mummy and Daddy; I was left to suffer on my own. As a result I hated camp and refused to return again for a number of years.
During those interim years I spent more time with my grandparents up at their cottage in the bustling town of Jackson’s Point – population… not sure. But, put it this way, the “big” town next to it did have a sign at its entrance: Sutton – Population 1,500.
One year my grandfather decided to build a one-bedroom lodging in the backyard that he planned to rent out. We called it, The Honeymoon Hoisel, hoisel meaning “little house” in Yiddish. It was quite an ironic name considering that the only people who I can recall ever renting it were an elderly couple, the Reinsteins. They were far from honeymooners and I am sure there was not a whole lot of steamy honeymoon-type activity going on between them, but one never knows.
The amazing thing is that my grandfather built that little place pretty much single-handedly. As a young boy I helped him a bit; hammer in some nails, pass him tools and the like, but he did everything else on his own. The story goes that one year the tax assessor came to appraise the cottage and he inquired about the structure in the backyard. As I am sure my grandfather did not seek any permits to create it, nor was he interested in paying any taxes on an extra room, he told the fellow it was a storage shed. It must have looked odd for the man to see frilly window curtains on a storage shed, but he never came back.
Last week, I visited the area and spent a day with my uncle at his cottage on the other side of the lake. With my 7-year old, Avital, we took a half hour boat ride to Jackson’s Point. We docked at Bonnie Boats and took a stroll into town. As we walked down Ravenswood Road (it was called Sedore in our day, not sure why they changed the name) we came across the old cottage and the owners happened to be outside. My uncle introduced himself and informed them that his father bought this home for $2,000 in 1965. They were kind enough to ask if we would like to come in and take a look around, which of course we did.
Needless to say, not much was the same but we did recognize the foyer which was once an enclosed porch that my grandfather turned into two extra bedrooms, and the fireplace where my Bubby used to get up early to make a fire on those cold early mornings. But the piece de resistance was in the backyard.
And there she stood, in all her grace, The Honeymoon Hoisel, leaning a bit, seemingly being propped up by the utility pole, but still there 40-something years later.
And yes, as I looked at it, it is nothing special and not much more than a shack. But when you think about it, this is indeed how it is for most of us with any number of things. Something that is so ordinary, so seemingly mundane, that means absolutely nothing to most people, often contains a very rich history and significance to others.
And so it goes in life, something might not be expensive, coveted by many or even very pretty, but none of that matters because behind that ring or tchotchke or small building is a rich and glorious story of how it came to be and bonded two people together. Two people such as a grandfather and his grandson.
So call it what you want. Call it a shack or call it a Honeymoon Hoisel. For the Reinsteins it was a quiet and inexpensive place for them to get away from the city heat and spend some time together alone – honeymooning in their own way. For the present owners, it’s a place to store tools. But for me it represented a time and place when a little boy got to feel he was a big help to his Zeida who magically was able to build something from scratch, made with love and sweat, and that still stands till this very day.
Beware of strange faces and dark dingy places
Be careful while bending the law
And the house you live in will never fall down
If you pity the stranger who stands at your gate