Aug 3rd- The Lighthouse Shed- Chris Ritchey
2002- You had just completed the 1st year of foundation courses at Cleveland Institute of Art. That Summer- a time of excitement in this family – getting ready for Nikki’s Christmas wedding. Once again I volunteered you for one of my community projects – your words still ring in my memory.
-” Mum if I was a mechanic would you volunteer me- Yes, I replied if you were a good mechanic”
MainstreetLorain( Now Lorain Growth Corp) had purchased a shed- it was going to sit on the ‘ mile long pier” welcoming the boaters, tourists and fisher folk, to be filled with welcoming information of what to do and where to do it in Lorain. John Houser, the MainstreetLorain Director, wanted a mural on both sides of he shed so it could be seen coming and going and a “free hand cursive “Welcome” .
Oh how you grumbled and I believe swore more than once at me – the surface was rough, hard to paint, there were grooves galore the heat didn’t help , the conditions lacking .
Mum this isn’t easy to paint this thing- why don’t you just stain it and put up a sign , I am sure there are plenty of photos of the lighthouse”
and so it went our back and forth.
The “Lighthouse Shed” eventually moved from the mile long pier to Black River Landing – It had weathered and a window added
The shed sat there season after season , becoming even more weathered and worn
but you weren’t interested when I would send them to you –
” Not my best work mum!- I don’t know why I let you talk me into doing these things for you”
The shed faded from memory, especially when we received the dreaded “cancer” news.
It was just a few weeks after your death- I didn’t go anywhere , withdrew from the world, the grief too much to deal with , let alone meet up with “people”. However , I was expressly asked by a dear friend to attend a meeting at the Port Authority. I sat in back of the meeting looking everywhere but at those faces- so full of compassion for me- I dare not meet their eyes….. and there my gaze fell, as I looked out the window, on that damned shed – still there! The snow circled danced with her partner, the all prevailing wind,blurring the little painted lighthouse, and yet bringing those summer days to the fore.
– how is it possible ?I thought – the shed still there facing the elements but you – you were gone. Why???
I fled the meeting in tears , hopefully without causing alarm to others knowing I would not find any answer.
I stayed away – from festivals- from life and the shed went back into memory. Then, once more I had to attend an event at the “landings”. The poor old shed looked worn and dull but Gavin and Braedyn were impressed when they saw the lighthouse was painted by Uncle Chris. And so another opportunity for you to become tangible in their little lives, to share another story of Chris told to little bright faces. .
Two years later a phone call-
Would Charleston Village Society like the donation of the “Lighthouse Shed ” for Settler’s Watch- great for keeping stuff in it?
I said yes, knowing I couldn’t bear to think of it ending up on a dump somewhere . And so the shed arrived to be placed behind the grapevines- my romantic notion – from a distance and if you squint your eyes this old weather-beaten shed looked eerily like an old settler’s cabin.
The shed certainly doesn’t look out-of-place. BUT the murals , well the rocks and lake were gone on the one side, the seagulls had lost their wings and the lighthouse itself faded into a mere shadow of itself all details gone -just an outline of what was once. –.
I knew I could call upon artists I know to redo the murals but I just couldn’t do that- I couldn’t bear your work and those memories to be painted over by anyone else. I had to do it but as my old art teacher informed me time and time again in school –
“Loraine you couldn’t even draw unemployment”
I decided I would “paint” not by numbers but by colours – fill in the lines, do what I could with your work to guide me . How bloody hard was that?
Tears streaming down my cheeks, blotting out the picture before me, trying to hold back the sobs that wanted to escape the confines of my heart. The wood had become even rougher in those 13 years of seasons, I would apply the paint only to have only half of each stroke adhere. I cursed the surface wondering if you were laughing at getting your own back. It took many mornings – it wasn’t the heat or the job itself which took so long it was the dealing with the raw emotions that attacked me as I worked. I could only stand up to that emotional maelstrom for so long.
Then came the bigger problem- the lake and rocks which had disappeared totally from the one side. How the hell was I going to paint rocks, waves , spray and the changing colours of the lake? I am not an artist, as I said . I went to the internet, pulled up “how to paint rocks and water”. I took a deep breath and began terrified I would mess the whole thing up. It doesn’t look too bad although I am sure you would be shaking your head at my endeavours .
The shed had turned for the most part a deep grey, rather than trying to power wash and bring it back we have decided to stain. And so two little boys were drafted to help stain “Uncle Chris’ Lighthouse Shed”
It became a “family affair” with your dad staining the “higher up” sections.
We ran out of paint- the old wood soaked up the stain- more was going to have to be applied, another day-
A trip over to Nog’s, where Nana had some chocolates and a chance to feed your fish. We love you Chris – not forgotten as life continues to weather us.
Entry filed under: Charleston Village, Chris Ritchey, city of lorain, death, grief, Lorain Dude, Love, Mothers. Tags: Charleston Village, Chris Ritchey, Christopher D. Ritchey, christopher ritchey lorain, CLeveland Institute of Art, death, grief, Lighthouse, Lorain, Love, mothers and sons, The Arts.