Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Save the seals

My garage has seasons of its own.

Six months of the year, it's clean, organized and accessible. The other six months, it becomes a tangled mess of weightlifting machinery, sweaters in boxes, camping equipment and nostalgia that my wife cannot, and will not, part with.

Sadly, the change of seasons is not Mother Nature's responsibility. It is mine. Meaning I've got break out the broom, move the boxes and fix the shelving I built 19 years ago. It takes an entire weekend and lots of coffee.

But occasionally it does yield some treasures.

I don't have many family heirlooms. My father was poor most his life. And when he did make the leap from working class to middle class he made sure there was no going backwards. So he rarely spent his money on anything but necessities.

He must have been in unusually good spirits when he disposed some of his income on this faux leatherbound book (picture above). You see it's not really a book. It's an office novelty that he kept on the bookshelf at Brownell Electro in lower Manhattan.

Inside you'll find an amusing collection of rubber stamps:

These stamps hardly gathered dust.

I can picture my cantankerous dad gleefully reading a memo from an underling and sending it back to his or her attention marked: Great Job -- but it's done wrong.

He did not suffer fools gladly. He liked to bust chops. And was often in dire need of a filter.

The fact is, these eight stamps provide a surprisingly complete snapshot of who my father was. And when they get passed on to my daughter, I'm sure she'll say the exact same thing.

(There's another reason I consider this, flimsy as it may be, a family heirloom. As you might know when immigrants from Eastern Europe showed up on Ellis Island the intake officers often had a hard time with the last names. Consequently many Russians, Germans and Poles, were assigned last names that corresponded to their occupation. The German translation for Siegel is Seal. So I am assuming that my great grandfather was a seal maker, which were used quite commonly in the late 1800's. I hope he made a seal or a stamp as funny as: The idea's terrible, but I like your nerve.)

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