I am a married woman in love. My husband is aware of this romance; how I pass by the object of my affection daily, sometimes even walking through it. He has bore the brunt of my rage when he managed to harm it, and even today knows that this object of my desire is red. Red with passion. Red with creativity. Red because I painted it that way.
I absolutely love my front door.
As you know, my husband and I don’t get the amount of money the federal government is convinced we get. So when it comes to things like furniture, clothes, and fixing up our fixer-upper we have to get more than creative. We have to be beggars. I’m too fat to shop at Goodwill without crying anymore, but my husband’s wardrobe is made up of exclusive Goodwill fashion. My daughter’s bedroom ensemble was a perfectly good bunk bed set we’d found at the dump. And the new front door to our house is antique. And I love it because it is so.
We got it off of Craigslist about five years ago, right before we moved to Fort Polk. It was for free, and I really wanted a new door to the house. So we tied it to the top of our car and drove it home that way. I’m surprised we didn’t get a ticket, to be honest. It was stored in the garage to wait for the day I could have time and money to do what needed to be done. And then we went away.
That’s when the tornado hit, and things were damaged. Moved, shunted, cut down without my permission, and left to rot because I couldn’t come back – not and be forced to leave my daughter behind when she was still in school. Through it all the door waited silently in the garage for our return.
So, I returned a couple of months ago to a house that was still standing but not sporting the door that was waiting in the garage. Rather, the house still wore the plain front door I meant to replace. Except that plain front door was painted with a big, ugly green x – an x I had never been told was there. An x that basically told the neighborhood our house was condemned. The neighbors told me that x had been there all these years. I think we’re lucky we weren’t fined for it, even though it was the city’s fault being as they’re the ones that put it there trying to convince the government that dead people, over 600 trees ripped from the ground, and entire neighborhoods of obliterated houses did indeed quality as a natural disaster.
It was past time to put the Craigslist door in it’s place.
This meant taking the old paint off, sanding it, cleaning it, loving it. The need pushed us into a three day journey exploring this door’s heart and soul. It had been through some tough times, our door. Part of the wood was so water damaged because of a poor doorknob installation it was warped. There were nails holding bits together while weakening the wood at the same time. There were small gauges, nails in random places, and two extra layers of paint it originally was not meant to have.
But also there were five panels, sturdy interlocking construction, and a need to be used the way it was meant to be used: as a door. As a gateway to our home. The jolly portal to our hearts and minds. This door had been hurt, but it was not a lost cause. Not to me it wasn’t. No. I understood where it had been all too well.
So with Pestilence’s and the roommate’s help, we began the arduous task of taking off the layers of paint. This is, in my opinion, always the most tedious part of these types of projects. After a day, mostly thanks to the roommate, there soon stood by the garage door a beautiful piece of wood construction. It wasn’t oak. It wasn’t cherry wood. Come to think of it, we realized, how old WAS this door?
I think I researched doors for hours upon hours. The first thing I figured out was that, according to the door’s construction and lack of fiberglass, my precious door was not just any door. It was an antique.
I had to start narrowing times down. I was pretty sure it wasn’t Victorian – I’ve seen those doors. They’re thin and taunt you with their ability to eat chocolate and continue to look good in a corset. Poking at images of colonial doors didn’t show a match. This moved me up to the Roaring Twenties, which produced images of doors that were near perfect except one problem: the glass. Turns out clear glass such as the kind our door proudly sports didn’t happen until somewhere near the early 40’s, late 30’s. There was also a second problem: door sizes weren’t standardized to the dimensions we use today until about the late 1930’s.
Going to the 50’s not only steered me away from the five panel look of our door, it stepped spades away from the way the door was constructed. So there I had it. Our door was from sometime in the 1940’s.
With an era narrowed down I was able to pinpoint it’s actual type: a bungalow. According to this website, bungalow door construction actually was replaced with modern door construction somewhere around the 1940’s. My poor baby, to have its sturdy construction cast away like that for some new fangled and (IMHO) ugly fad!
Now that I had my door’s age, the rest just fell in place. My fabulous door is made from heart pine, which is harder and more sturdy than the soft knotty pine used today. Apparently in the old days, up until about the 1950’s, tree farms allowed their pine trees to grow a lot bigger than they do now. The most interior wood harvested from these massive trunks was harder and more sturdy, and thus was called “heart pine” because it came from the tree’s heart. My door not only represented a way of manufacture no longer in use, it represented a growth of quality no longer in use.
My door was cut to fit an older door knob set. That was probably the hardest part to handle (pun not intended). I looked at some gorgeous door knob replications online, but alas… $100 is too much. $50 is too much. We had to settle for a cheap set at the local hardware store.
Heart pine is beautiful when stained and varnished properly, but that was not to be for our door – not that I was going to go with that look. There were too many bruises and gashes on the darling. And besides, I had always wanted a red front door ever since I was told as a child that red was traditional. I didn’t know what red meant, I just knew I liked the idea. And that is why our door was painted red.
So I had a red door with shiny brand new replica door knob and hinges waiting to go. There was one more detail to take care of, though- something I had planned years ago. The three panels of glass needed some oomph. I decided to paint the middle panel to resemble stained glass.
But what to put there? It needed to be something that could represent all sides of our home and temple. Something that touched on what we both brought into the house. My husband, being the let-me-just-give-my-wife-even-MORE-work type of guy that he is, suggested a full blown scene with (of course) a dragon and a knight… because don’t you know his Native American wife’s half would of COURSE bring in a White guy fighting a European monster. -_- I almost painted feathers and White-Man-Eating wolves just to show him better for that.
Ultimately we decided on a thunderbird – the kind that can also be considered a phoenix. It just seemed the most universal way of showing that he and I both live here, that we both rose from the ashes of abuse and ruin to find one another. How fitting that our door, which also had risen from the ashes, should speak the tail through mythological metaphor.
We found brass decorative corners, the kind that are meant to protect your door from scuffs. We examined door guards and hinges. Things we knew the door could appreciate. And then, when we had it as ready as our very limited finances would allow, Pestilence hung it in place. The house breathed a sigh of life. It no longer looked condemned.
The cable/internet guy was coming to the house for a line redo shortly after we had it hung. He asked me, “Is your house the one with the weird front door?”
Great googly moogly. Weird door? After working on the door for over a week straight, I didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t worth arguing over, so I didn’t, but yet even before my journey through this door’s past began I could tell it was something old and special. And not because I hold a minor in history. If you open your eyes and look around, you can soon figure out that some things aren’t… I dunno… soulless.
It’s not a weird door. It’s a fantastic, passionate and gorgeous piece of artwork.
It speaks of a time when quality meant something. When even wood for construction, like wine, was not served until it was time. It was hand crafted and built to be a sturdy door that could withstand the battering of the elements and keep going.
It had seen some significant moments in history. There was probably a war going on when it was born… at the very least it came to life when the social status of women in America was changing irrevocably away from “barefoot in the kitchen”. It had been abused and then thrown away after that. It knew intimately the pain of being taken for granted.
It had been rescued by a pair of kindred spirits who scraped away the grime of time and pulled out the thorny nails. They whispered passion back into the grain of its wood, they filled the holes and covered the warped and weakened areas. They gave it color, and then placed the story of all their lives in the center view. And they loved.
Do you know the meaning of a red front door? I didn’t either until I started to write this post.
Our door means “welcome”.
Our door means we are protected from tragedy.
And apparently our door means our mortgage is paid up – or at least it would if we were in Scotland. We are not in Scotland.
I love my door. Sure it’s easily 30 years older than my house, but it’s pretty there where it hangs.. although I have to admit my door project isn’t complete just yet. I’m looking for certain brass fixings to shore up the door jam. It looks like I’ll need them to be custom made. So far I haven’t found anyone willing to do the job.
And it needs weather stripping on the interior. In fact, our electric bill swears we really need weather stripping. When the door is completely finished I’ll show it off some more. =^-^=
But that is the story of my love affair with a door. And how the most common place of things can be truly meaningful, if you stop to think about it.