A SUBTERRANEAN TINKERER
Hana Hoogedeure & Luke O'Donnell
A Monotonous Story
Worn and prostrated after a long week of work (time seemed to pass at a slower pace out there in the outback), a very long week, so monotonous and identical – a brief break on the Wednesdays, to watch a match with some friends at the club – but for the rest, every week so very much the same, during his weekends, dad used to lock himself in the small room at the basement, near the car park that smelled of fuel.
Every sacrosanct weekend, aside from lunch breaks and a few family obligations, he would vanish in the basement studio, as if swallowed up, gulp! Only to resurrect on Sunday nights, paler and more exhausted than when he first set foot down there, but with a smile on his dry lips and an aura of peacefulness all around him, which made some think he had been invested with some mysterious form of sanctity, others, the malicious ones, that this state of ecstasy was caused by a much more earthly form of enjoyment!
We didn’t ask many questions, watching him going down the stairs into his dusty studio was like watching him eating his porridge in the morning, like watching mum hanging the clothes out at the backyard. That is, he couldn’t have done without it.
Peeking from the cracks on the glass door, all chipped and barely hanging on its hinges, we would watch him run back and forth and drill something and grab an object and mount it on top of another and stare at it with satisfaction and tear it into pieces or spray it with golden varnish a minute later.
Burdened with responsibilities and weighed down with boredom – the daily routine in the idyllic provincial countryside, all sun, bare landscapes and BBQs wasn’t truly an incitement for the mind, even for the less ambitious minds - dad would hide himself in the basement to make “useless things”, as he liked to call them.
Without a reason why, with no aim and without any concrete explanation, those were the most relaxing and possibly the happiest moments of his long life.
Nobody ever saw the results, as dad always refused to let us into his world of “useless things”, he didn’t even like talking about them. Some of us suggested to give them to family and friends as Christmas presents, a journalist even paid him a visit once, intrigued by the frequent village rumors about a middle-aged suburban arty dude, and he invited him to show his “creations”, that’s what he called them, in some art exhibitions.
Dad ended up kicking the poor fella’s ass out of his house.
I remember when I peeped at him from the door cracks: funny, clumsy, his colourless greasy hair pasted on the forehead and the loose glasses sitting on the top of that huge swollen nose of his.
Hunched like a chimpanzee, he would place his objects in circle, most of the times, and most of the times he would make boxes and line them or fill them with bizarre objects and fabrics. Other times, he would create objects or he’d recycle old ones (dad never trashed anything!), pile them on the boxes and paint them with extravagant colours. Sometimes, he’d destroy them.
At the end of each session, he’d put everything back in the drawers, and no traces were left of his long hours spent down there at the basement, in his semi-dark and dusty studio; nothing really remained of his long working hours, but the smell of varnish, sometimes, which so much inebriated us kids, or some plywood curls that survived the ruthless passage of the hoover.
Dad, I only realized it many years later, had understood the meaning of time and with it, the beauty of usefulness.
-by Luisa Tresca