Archer explores the upper garden
Saturday night we had dinner with my grandmother and some of her friends at her home in Del Mar where she's lived since forever and over the years has accumulated some incredible architectural artifacts c/o Frank Lloyd Wright and his son John Lloyd Wright (who was married to my grandfather's mother, Frances.)
John Lloyd Wright, who built my Nana's (and mother's childhood) home, invented Lincoln Logs and sold the patent for a measly $800 to Playskool. (Bah!) Robbed blind, the toy went on to be the most popular and beloved toy of its time (and all time, arguably) and not a penny of its worth was seen by John or his family. A heartbreaking story for a man who lived his life in his father's shadow, never fully able to step outside.
To follow, John started over, this time with a much more ambitious block - a wooden (pre lego?) intricately carved specifically for castle-building! He patented it and tried to sell it himself but was unable to. They were far too intricate a design and too expensive to make.
The blocks sat in their first/only edition boxes, archived and stowed away except for a great big open-to-all box that lived in my grandparents' closet, making cameos during dinner parties with my mother and aunt's Barbie dolls and Breyer horse collection.
My cousins, siblings and I spent hours in our dresses on the floor, building worlds of our own, unaware of the significance of what we were building with until we were much older.
The other night, my Nana dusted off the old box of Wright blocks and Archer (as well as all the rest of us dinner--party goers) spent the evening on hands and knees building castles. Eighty years between builders young and old.
And then, wedged somewhere in the bin, the old patent stamp, hand-carved and long lost. It said:
John Lloyd Wright, inventor of Lincoln Logs presents:
Amazing, the kinds of artifacts found over the years in my Nana's closet. It's like digging for treasure in the dust bunnies of lost decades. Except you don't even have to really dig and somehow, never a dust mote in sight.
Afterward, my Nana brought out an old album - a collection of photographs and letters and old sketches - brilliance. Archer was fascinated. He sat down next to my Nana, his great-grandmother, and listened as she wove tails and introduced his saucer eyes to sepia photographs of his great-great-great- grandparents.
"And this was your great-great-great grandmother, Lady Hattie! She built the very first birth-control center in Yorkshire, England, and her husband, Sir George - he was a knight!"
Which just about blew his mind. "Whoa! A good knight?"
And mine. "Whoa! The first birth control center?"
I am consistently blown away every day I spend at my grandmother's home - by the people and places who have passed through - the hands that built its very foundation - the courage and creativity of those that came and went, the stories left behind in letters and drawings and beautiful eighty-years-young matriarchs.
What a tremendous responsibility to carry on the legacy and how lucky to be at the receiving end of such tremendous tales.
I am in awe of these people I am privileged to call family. It blows my mind sometimes how inspired I am just by waking up and high-fiving their ghosts.
*My Nana's new book hits stores this week! The updated version of her (Southern California) gardener's classic is all-organic, including new ways to protect your plants without using pesticides harmful to the earth. Go, Nana!
**Congratulations to my cousin Jordan, and the producers of Under Our Skin (a documentary about the Lyme disease epidemic and a Health Care system that shamefully ignores Lyme disease and its victims) for making the short list for possible Oscar nom! Much deserved for a VERY important film! Trailer, here.