Wood and the American Family

What is your level of wood knowledge? How many things can you name that are made of wood? There are the usual answers of books, envelopes, magazines - all the paper products. Then book cases, desks, chairs, wood is in a lot of furniture. Buildings have gone the way of metal, concrete, glass and plastics but there is some wood in the doors, trim and framing. Overall the majority of today’s homes are still wood frame structures. The technology for insulation, windows and heating and cooling sure has changed over the past hundred years.

Times may change but our homes are still the center of family life and they are tied very closely to the ‘American Dream’

A Man’s Home is his castle as the old saying goes. The concept of a home as a castle goes back through the ages in the arts and politics. The basics of the idea are that the house is a place of safety and refuge where your family has privacy and security, like what a castle did for the king and queen.

By the beginning of this country, the American settlers had used the woods all around them to build their ‘castles’ These early Americans were weather-minded and wood-wise when it came to building their homes, barns and other structures like covered bridges, Inns and town halls.

The many types of woods offered different textures and uses. As an Example White Cedar wood had a remarkable quality to resist water and damp-rot. Three foot Cedar shingles were not only used on the roofs but on the back walls facing north to protect against the cold wet winds. By the 1790’s the Cedar forests in New Jersey were cleared and gone but that didn’t stop the resourceful builders. They discovered that there was a layer twelve feet deep of Cedar logs from trees that had fallen over from the past several hundred years. The water resistance was so good that the Cedar trees in the New Jersey Cedar Swamps were ‘mined’ out of the water until the time of the Civil war.

Not just buildings but furniture too; walnut, maple, cherry, oak all hard wood with nice grains. I love the opening scenes in Mel Gibson’s ‘The Patriot’ Movie where he is trying to build a rocking chair and it falls apart. How the family secretly watches and hopes it will work but laughs as it collapses again. I love the example that message portrays in that the father can fail but he is not a failure, He will get it done. It takes time and patience, but you know he will make a chair that is strong and one that he can sit in. That his family will be sitting on it while they rock away on the porch.

The front doors were important too. Young men would plan how they would make their Front door long before the planning the rest of the house took place. It had to be special, made out of Apple or Cherry wood and have Sassafras panels. It would be constructed of Stiles (vertical pieces) and Rails (horizontal pieces) that formed a Christian Cross that is still seen today in most front doors. If superstitious he could add a Maltese cross in the lower section to make a ‘witch door’ to keep out the evil spirits and frame the door with Ash wood to make the door even more effective on keeping those spirits out.

Wood provided heat for comfort and cooking. I know that wood burning fireplaces are not environmentally correct anymore but I loved the smell of burning wood in my fireplace as I grew up. After owning a couple of other homes I was able to move back in to the house I grew up in to raise my kids. I have special memories of cold nights setting a fire and my kids gathering their pillows and blankets to lie on the ground, all their little bare feet pointed towards the fire. Resting peacefully as I sat on the sofa snuggling with my wife under a big comforter. The pop and snap of the fire and the flutter of the flames soon had everyone asleep.

My Grandmother was from Sicily, they migrated to San Francisco in 1910 and she cooked with a wood burning stove. I have that stove in my garage, it was manufactured in the 1920’s and I plan to use it someday just like she used to. It has a wood fire box to the side and a front door oven just big enough for a turkey, four spots on the top for pots and bread warmer up on top for the fresh baked rolls. It was amazing to watch her use it. I am going to set it up in a safe spot out on the covered lanai and vent it through the overhang, all the parts are there so; someday...

Lastly I would like to add a short essay that my youngest son Zachary had to write for one of his college courses. He was asked to explain a ‘Rite of Passage’ from his culture. It makes me proud to share with you what he wrote;

 

Before living in Hawaii, I lived in Northern California where during the winter time, temperatures would drop down to 20-30 degrees at night. When I was nine years old, my dad asked me to go outside and chop firewood to keep the fireplace going. This was a task that my dad expected me and my brothers to do, just like his father expected of him. It is a simple task, but in my family this is one of the many rites of passages that are required for manhood. In my culture, in order to be a man, one must be able to do the many things required to take care of the family, even at the cost of his own comfort. by Zachary Bocchieri.

 

Well said Zach, These are a few of the way Wood ties onto Family Life. I’ll write about more someday soon, I wonder if you have any special memories or stories. Please share via E-mail or comment here. Thanks; Aloha Pa

Scripture for today - 1 Kings 6:31-35

Advice from Aloha Pa – Your kids are always watching, they see everything you do and hear everything that you say. Want them to act a certain way, act that way. Want them to speak a certain way, speak that way. They are far more likely to do as you do rather than do as you say…just saying!)