Memories: My Grandfather’s Paper Houses

Memories: My Grandfather’s Paper Houses

The other day I was reminded of something my grandfather used to do as a hobby. I don’t remember ever actually witnessing my grandfather work on this hobby while I was around, I think it must’ve been something he did when we kids went home for the night (my grandparents took care of my brother, cousin and I while our parents worked).

vovosummerThey were paper houses, like mini house models if you will. He didn’t need to buy any special tools for his hobby, he simply saved Little Debbie snack boxes and when he had enough he used a ruler, pencil, an Exacto knife, and some glue to make little houses out of them. He used to keep the houses in the parlor and my cousin and I came across them one day and thought it was the coolest thing! I’m not sure why but for some reason the memory of finding the houses came back to the forefront of my mind recently.


It was a regular old day at my grandparents and my cousin and I snuck into the parlor where we knew we didn’t belong. We climbed onto the velvet material, gaudy-70s-floral-print couch and while peaking over the arm we saw that in the small space between the couch and the wall were a few of these white paper model houses. Looking through the meticulously cut out windows of one house, we realized these houses were made out of Little Debbie snack boxes! We never asked my grandfather about them since we knew we shouldn’t have been in the parlor in the first place. But looking back as an adult, I wish I could’ve seen my grandfather’s process in building these. I imagine it took great patience and attention to detail, both of which he was good at.

This memory also reminded me of how hobbies can be so simple, and how they’re good for us. I came upon an article a while back about how important working with our hands is for our mental health. In our present-day of being so attached to technology and having just about whatever we could ever want or need available at a store, we are spending less time on hobbies and crafts. We don’t make things as much anymore.

“Dr. Kelly Lambert (www.kellylambertlab.com) explored the relationship between hand use, current cultural habits, and mood.  She found that hands-on work satisfies our primal need to make things and could also be an antidote for our cultural malaise. Too much time on technological devices and the fact that we buy almost all of what we need rather than having to make it has deprived us of processes that provide pleasure, meaning and pride.” (source)

birthdayMy grandfather, his name was Eduino, was an amazing man. I know I talk a lot about my grandmother on this blog, but I really should talk about my grandfather too. He had a great impact on me. He was a short man who stood at only about 4′ 10″ tall (same height as I am! The “short” genes are strong on my maternal side) but there wasn’t a thing he couldn’t do. As an impoverished young boy, he followed his dad to work on farms and continued to do farm work up until he immigrated from the Açores islands to the United States (Massachusetts specifically)  in 1977.

retirementWhen he came to the United States he worked as a janitor in a factory. He was a family man, a father of six, and a hard worker. He continued to have a garden of some type his whole life. But gardening was far from all he did. He was a jack of all trades, much like many of the Portuguese men I grew up around. He built his entire back porch with one of my uncles and rebuilt it again to have a ramp when my grandmother became ill and was too weak to walk. He knew when to discipline us kids, but mostly he was a complete jokester with us who loved nothing more than to sneak up behind us and tickle our ear then turn around and act all smooth like it wasn’t him!

One time, I’ll never forget it, we were on his porch and there was a HUGE, SCARY, WASP! I screamed! My grandfather seemed genuinely perplexed about what all the fuss was about. When I pointed at the wasp, he laughed, grabbed a flimsy fly swatter and smooshed that scary bastard without a second thought! What if he had missed? Wasps are retaliative! I could only dream about being as brave as my grandfather, I still run the other way when I see a wasp!

Another funny thing about him; long after he quit smoking my grandfather would still collect cigarette boxes he found while going for walks (he never drove). The idea of him picking up other people’s cigarette boxes off the ground disgusted his children (understandably lol) but, he knew that [at the time] if he saved enough of them and sent in the little side portions of the box he could get free swag from Marlboro – and you bet your butt he did. He was thrilled to get a nice windbreaker out of it!

vovo aidenHe knew when to be headstrong and he knew when to relax and laugh too. When we were kids he started taking care of the neighborhood’s many stray cats. He had quite a few living in his garage that he fed and took care of. One of my childhood cats, Lucky, was actually the kitten of one of those stray cats! When my grandfather had a pregnant cat come to him he took special attention and care, making a little basket with blankets in the garage for her to sleep and birth her kittens safe from the elements. Down the line, one of my aunts started taking the cats to a vet who spayed and neutered strays for free and brought them back to my grandfather. They never came in the house but he loved those stray kitties so much. He even made them homemade food – I remember him using his manual meat grinder to grind up some leftover chicken and rice for the kitties food (which they looooved). He was just an amazing man.

It’s these little details and quirks about my grandfather that make me smile to this day. I don’t remember what it was that triggered the paper house memory but gosh, I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. How had I almost forgotten this detail about my grandfather? It made me want to make my own paper house. I decided I’m going to do it! If it survives my hands, maybe I’ll make a post about it here…

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(my grandfather & I)

Sending love & light,

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