First step of any journey is to clear the path

First step of any journey is to clear the path

One time when my mom and dad traveled out west with their RV, they had a little breakdown somewhere in a southwestern state. I can’t recall the one, but it was out in the country, and luckily, they were able to find a small automotive shop. The man who owned the garage fixed them up — if I’m remembering the story right — in a couple days.

What I’ll never forget is how Mom related the story of how after fixing their RV, he wanted to show them his home and property. He had them follow him even more into the countryside until he pulled into the driveway of his home. He was beaming from ear to ear, telling them how he’d been able to purchase a home for his family and began to fix it up as best he could. He was full of pride.

For folks used to Holmes County homes with swept yards and neatly trimmed gardens, this radiant man’s property probably came as a shock. They thanked him profusely for showing them around and got on their way. It was something they never forgot, and neither did I.

Not everyone does things the same way, and what might look like one thing to someone is another someone’s castle. Emphasis, in some people’s homes, is put on things you might not see. It’s one of the reasons I learned long ago to never tell someone they’re not doing something the right way because there’s a million right ways.

George has been cleaning out the back part of his garage on a journey to the next step in our lives. The fire pit has been burning large grandiose fires filled with random pieces of wood and junk. She has seen more action in the past week than she’s seen in the last 10 years.

“I’m ready to meet my failures. I’m making peace with my garage and my past as I go,” he said.

He sat at the breakfast table this morning and began to talk about the kids’ outdoor toys he’d uncovered as he set about cleaning it out.

“It was like the layers of my life and my kids’ lives. I finally saw the back of the storage part of the garage for the first time in many years. I was sad when I saw the toys, Frisbees, footballs and broken bits of plastic beach toys,” he said. “I was saying goodbye to the garage that had contained my life. I brought things here that were useful.”

George was raised not having much to call his own, so items that were useful — or might be useful in the future — were saved. I think of Grandma Stutzman and all the little things she saved. She started having children during The Great Depression, and nothing was to be wasted — bits of wax paper and foil, twisty ties, and bread bags. Everything had a use, and to most of us now, it’s unfathomable to save those kinds of bits and bobs.

“I might need it someday” is something George always said. And while it seems silly, attachment to places and things are very real.

“You might have a million-dollar garage, but my little garage and house were my kingdom. It held silver and gold to me,” George said. “It was my haven. If the house could’ve spoken, it would have encouraged me.

“We didn’t have an architect or designer but did things ourselves because we could only afford to do so much. I was not the best at what I did back then. I wasn’t the professional I am today, but this house, she encouraged me. The character of the house would say to me, and I could hear her say it, ‘You learned as you went; I was your canvas.’ Did we do everything right? No, but I’ve never stopped encouraging myself. She warmed us, sheltered us and let me lean into her every curve.”

And George, because of her, you learned to create perfection in other people’s homes. You learned to enrich your texture techniques on her walls, your hands touching every inch of this house. We couldn’t give her everything she needed because we could only do as much as we could, but we sure did know love and joy while inside her walls.

Melissa Herrera is a published author and opinion columnist. She is a curator of vintage mugs and all things spooky, and her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” can be found at For inquiries, to purchase her book or anything else on your mind, email her at or find her in the thrift aisles.

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