Myths
Narrative

REBUILDING THE HARDWARE STORE

ABOUT THE INFORMANT:

My informant is a mother of three who lives just outside of Boston with her husband of over 30 years. She is originally from Cape Cod, the part of Massachusetts that is full of beaches and is a world known tourist destination. She is a lover of all thing water; she has worked extensively in water policy and water pollution as an environmentalist.

EXAMPLE:

“So basically the summer I was 16…well, my dad had a country hardware store on the Cape {Cod} that burnt down when I was 14. And there was no insurance on the building. My parents had a piece of land in Orleans that was once where the building stood.

It was this terrible fire. I remember in eighth grade cooking dinner for my siblings while my parents were down there. My parents were watching the fire, watching their store come down.

In fact, for the four days of Thanksgiving break we had a fire sale. We pulled out of the store what we could after the fire. All the smoky, gross items. And we set up on the driveway next to the burnt down business. It was like a flea market. All of us were working. Just to get any money to pay off the items in the store because we still owed money on them, you know? We hadn’t paid back the people we bought them from.

So we had no money. But we did have this piece of land. So my dad started stockpiling lumber. It was actually bargain lumber, like cheap lumber he could find, all in our yard. So after a year, no after a couple of years, he got all of the lumber he needed. So he built a new store. All by himself. One summer, everyday he would work on it. I would ride by on my bike everyday and see him, building it. “Hi, Dad.” I worked as a chambermaid at a motel nearby. Then I would ride back every night and see him, still working.

He built it all by himself. One day he hired one guy so that they could raise the steel beam in the middle, for structural support, but that’s it. He was out there everyday, by himself that whole summer. And I would pass by him everyday.”

COMMENTS:

“That’s something we often talk about. We remember how even when we had nothing, we literally rose from the ashes. He rose us from the ashes. We tell that story a lot in my family. He went on to own five successful hardware stores. That was the turning point. We all learned about struggling and not giving up from him there.”

ANALYSIS:

This story hits on a couple of different elements. Even though it itself is true, or at least as true as a story can be when someone tells it, with no real fantastical or folkish elements to it, it contributes heavily to this family’s folklore.

This family cites this as a moment when their fortunes and fate began to change. This is kind of a liminal moment in a way, in that it is the part in between utter devastation and financial success. When they talk about her dad, and the stores for that matter, they talk about this moment. The moment of rebirth, and “the turning point.”

It also adds to the lore of her father, a very highly regarded figure in her family. She is filled with pride when looking back at him, single handedly rebuilding this family’s hope. While the story may be grounded in reality, it adds to his legend. He would go on to be talked about and looked upon as this amazing figure in her and her family’s world. This is one of those moments that would be talked about repeatedly in this family, as his lore grew with it.

Lastly, I feel as though this informant attributes this as a lesson or a trait she inherited from her father. Seeing him at work everyday, after such a terrible thing happened, not giving up, had a lasting impression on her. I feel as though she uses it to learn the importance of hard work and resilience; that it helps keep her fire going.

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