This weekend's basement flood has started me thinking about the things I value. When I went downstairs and noticed the water flowing in, my first thought was the safety of one of my cats, who was lying under my computer desk at the time. Once she was safe, I quickly unhooked the computer and threw it to high ground. By that time, the water had started to rise, and was flowing toward the unfinished part of the basement where we store a lot of our stuff. Boxes full of remnants from old office jobs, stationary that I don't use anymore (although I really wish I still wrote letters in long-hand), the cat carriers, etc. Luckily, my photos are all stored in boxes in an unused bedroom, so that wasn't an issue. However, one thing mattered to me more than anything in that unfinished part of the basement. And that was a sign my grandfather painted for me for my 11th birthday, 18 years ago.

My grandfather was an artist. He was a signmaker for a living, painting and designing signs for the companies in our area. I have 10 younger cousins (I am the oldest), and when each of his grandchildren celebrated a birthday, he would create an amazing personalized sign for him or her. I have pictures of me and him in front of all of them. The early ones were enormous-over 10'x10'. The later ones were smaller, 3'x5'.

Built into each sign was a surprise. Hidden somewhere in the sign-perhaps in one of the letters of "Happy Birthday," perhaps circling around the eye of whatever storybook or cartoon character had captured our childish interest that year- was the word "Papa," the name we called our grandfather. And it was our job to find it.

When I was very young, the "Papa" was easy to find. As I grew older, it was much more challenging. But after the initial "oohing and ahhhing" over the masterpiece he created, the next task at hand was finding the hidden "Papa," and it sometimes took quite some time. He gave hints, though, after awhile.

The sign in my basement is the only one I have. I don't know where the others are. So as the water rose in my basement and started to inch up my 11th birthday sign, which reads "Happy 11th Birthday, Krissy. With Love, Papa" and then the word "Dolce," (which means "sweet" in Italian and which was the name he called me by) painted along the bottom, I slogged across the floor, grabbed it, and brought it to safety on the main floor of my house. The bottom is a little wet. But it will dry.

On August 5th of this year, my grandfather will have been gone for 10 years. And while the sign he made me certainly isn't the only memory I have of him, or even the most important one, it's a visual reminder of his amazing talent and of his love for me. I was able to save this part of him and I will keep it safe always.

13 Responses to “Signs”

  1. # Blogger Amy

    What a wonderful memory and keepsake to have of your granfather. I bet the signs were beautiful.  

  2. # Anonymous E

    What a wonderful story - so loving. Wish you could post a picture of your sign so we can see it! Here via Michele today, but I've enjoyed reading. I'll be back!  

  3. # Blogger CAL

    I'd love to see a picture of it.  

  4. # Blogger PractiGal

    Yes! A picture, Kristi! So sweet. How wonderful to have this special gift from your Papa!  

  5. # Blogger Guppyman

    That was a cool story.... glad you saved it!  

  6. # Anonymous MissMeliss

    Oh, lovely - both the memory and the sign itself.

    I have nothing so tangible - a binder of letters he wrote to me over the years, a pocket knife I was enamored with as a child. Mostly I have memories.

    Grandfathers are amazing and special creatures, aren't they?  

  7. # Blogger Michele

    Oh Kristi, what a wonderful post. Yes, you must always keep it safe. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful memory of the sign and the man who made it. Your Papa sounds like a wonderful man.

    Now, I must blogroll your wonderful site.  

  8. # Blogger Carl V.

    Thanks for the site visit today and the comments. Glad you enjoyed Charlie! You're welcome back anytime!

    We are in the process of going through our basement and cleaning up and storing things that are sentimentally valuable in a more appropriate way so as to avoid potential damage. Glad you were able to save your grandfathers painting. Things like that are so very priceless and I'm thankful that you have something so special to remember him by.  

  9. # Anonymous Cara

    WOW, what a great gift your papa gave you. I had an Italian "papa" as well and he made furniture. My entire life I had dressers and nightstands built by mt papa. They are all gone now, but if I could haved saved them somehow, I would have. I'm glad you got to it before the water did.  

  10. # Blogger Kristi

    Amy-yes, they really were. I wish his artistic talent had rubbed off on me!

    E, Andy, and Practigal-I would love to post a picture, but I don't own a digital camera. I know, it's sad. I may take a film shot of it and scan it in, once my computer and printer are hooked up again.

    Guppyman-Thanks for stopping by. I'm glad you liked the story.

    MissMeliss-Letters are wonderful. I have several of those from my Papa too. And yes, grandfathers are completely amazing.

    Michele-Thanks for stopping by! I'm so glad you liked my site. Thanks for blogrolling me. :)

    Carl-Thanks for visiting. Yes, after this experience, nothing that's valuable will be stored in the basement, and the things that must be down there (like the computer) will all be moved to "higher ground." Definitely a valuable lesson to learn.

    Cara-Wow, how wonderful that you had handmade furniture from your Papa. What a talent! You might not have the pieces now, but I bet they appear very vividly in your memories.  

  11. # Blogger Pieces of Me

    I am so glad you were able to save it! I am here from Michele's! TTYL  

  12. # Blogger Marie

    OK... next time I come over, I shall bring my digital camera & take pics of whatever you want... then I'll e-mail 'em to you! ;-)  

  13. # Blogger Kristi

    Marie- Sounds good to me! :)  

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