The Story of My First Handsaw

My first interaction with my roommate was much more stressful than I had anticipated. I attribute it in part to the fact that I was meeting someone whom I knew way too much about because I had fervently stalked her on Facebook. Also, I was holding a large handsaw. No, the saw wasn’t intended to be a source of protection, nor was it meant to do construction work. I actually intended to hang it on the wall above my bed. The saw itself is a piece of folk art—a painted scene of a lazy pond bordered by a small forest and a dusty path that leads to an old red barn atop a hill. Beside it, a sign for an Auction leans on an empty cart under a ripe apple tree. In front of it all stands a gruff, bearded man, gazing out at the beauty of his surroundings. This man is my grandfather.

Growing up, my grandpa worked as an auction clerk. He started his career working as a civil engineer for the city, but after retiring, he became more involved with his passion for buying and selling cheap antiques. Many of the items being sold at the auctions could later be found in either his garage or his basement. One of my favorite parts about trips to my grandparents’ house was searching through the rows of shelves, in the garage, piled high with boxes filled with all sorts of items, ranging from vintage matchbooks to old McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. One of his favorite things to collect was tools, specifically saws. Although there was always a row of them hanging in the back of the garage, the one that I have the most vivid memories of is his painted saw. It hung on the wall in his office, which housed both his computer and the incredibly-out-of-tune piano that my sister and I enjoyed playing. Every time I ran down the stairs to play the piano and other assorted instruments he had collected over the years, I could see the saw hanging directly in front of me as I entered the office. Although I don’t remember ever taking the time to examine it, the saw always seems to pop up in the background of my memories of that room and of my grandpa. 

My grandfather died in June. He hadn’t been in good health, but he hadn’t been in bad health either, and I think that his falling ill was largely unexpected by most of our family. It happened during a period of chaos in my life, and I spent a lot of time unable to process everything that had transpired. After his passing, it came time to go through his belongings. He had sold the majority of his auction collection the year prior, so we didn’t have a lot to go through, but as we began to find things, I realized that the one thing I really wanted was the saw. It was just one of many unique decorations that he kept around the house, but its presence had made a resounding impact on me. It reminds me of my beloved childhood memories and all of the joys of my grandparents’ house, but it also reminds me of him. It reminds me of how much he loved the outdoors and bluegrass music and Appalachia and folk art. It reminds me of his love of tools and auctions and reading and of his love of his family. It reminds me how much I miss him. But more than anything else, it reminds me of how many of his passions he has passed on to me. I wouldn’t be the person that I am today without my grandparents.

I am also happy to report that my roommate wasn’t too freaked out by me yielding a saw during our first encounter. It has actually fit in quite well with the rest of our decorations in the room, and for me, it brings a touch of home. Not to mention it’s a total conversation starter! As I’ve become more acquainted with my grandpa’s saw over the past couple of months, I’ve come to realize that this portrait of my grandfather is an incredibly accurate depiction of who he was as a person. I have no idea whether or not my grandpa was ever at that farm or even if that farm exists. Either way, I know that he would have loved to sit on that farm after an auction and play his dulcimer, and whenever I glance up at the scene, I can’t help but imagine how comforting it would be to be standing right there next to him.