We’ve come to the end of a perfect day. Everything fell so beautifully into place and Goodnight and I managed to do what we had planned for Day 3 . . . well almost.
Gr8 called me. She knew most of my plans for the day, but she wanted to touch base with me, ask some questions about relatives and cemeteries, and she wanted to offer some o her stories. We talked for a good long while before Goodnight and I headed out for the day. I had hoped to bring Gr8 with us, but she said she wasn’t up to it. I’ve been trying to keep her included if only from a distance. Goodnight and I headed into Milwaukee to find the old church where my father’s mother’s parents were married.
When we got to the church it was locked. There was scaffolding erected on one side of the church and two steeplejacks (SJ) hard at work where a fence separated them from me. So, I used my outdoor voice and called to one of the fellows.
Gram: Is is possible to get into the church today?
SJ: Yah, if I let you.
Gram: Would you mind, then? My great-grandmother was married here in 1874 and I would love to have a peek inside to see what it looks like.
SJ: Hang on, I gotta come around through the church. I’ll let you in.
GN and I waited at the front door as instructed and before long, it opened to allow the steeplejack out onto the steps.
SJ: How long ago did you say?
SJ: That’s a long time ago. Where’re ya from? Come on in . . .
Gram: I drove in from Minnesota. I’ll just take a moment so I don’t keep you from your work.
SJ: Ma’am, there’s no one here. I’m on a nine-year restoration project , I got lotsa time.
As the steeplejack chattered and spoke about his work, we had stepped inside the historic church. Rather than the standard photo down the nave, with the altar in the distance, I thought I would share a pic of the church from a different perspective: the fuse box.
The steeple jack told me he had never worked on a church with so many light bulbs. As he spoke, his eyes wandered upward and his gaze traced the arches of the church. I looked up to where he had. Every curve, and arch in the ceiling had a path of lightbulbs. What a glorious thing to see! I asked him if he could turn the lights on for a quick photo.
SJ: Ma’am, I wish I could. The last time I did that, I blew a fuse. The wiring is old and the system is a nightmare. I’m in year seven of a nine-year project and . . . well, you know, I don’t want to do the wiring again. But the fuse box is back there if ya wanna have a look.
The fuse box stood taller than I do. The corner was dark, and I decided not to ask about lights a second time. I liked our serendipitous steeplejack tour guide very much.
Gram: Are you a tinner too?
SJ: No, I do slate work. How do you know what a tinner is?
Gram: I know one of the tinners who worked on the Cathedral of Saint Paul dome restoration. How many are in your crew?
SJ: Just me and my brother, that’s why it takes nine years.
Gram: Especially if someone asks you to turn on the lights, eh?
The younger of the two brothers, both with gray hair, went back to work and told us to take our time. When we saw everything we wanted to, he asked us to call up to him on the scaffolding so he could close up the church again. We were there over an hour. Goodnight and I scoured every nook and cranny of that old church. The balcony was open so we went up there, too. Our visit may not have been so interesting if the church had not been under restoration.
Thank you, SJ!
All day long, we had similar luck. We found someone to let us inside all the locked churches we wanted to see, a parish pastor gave us our impromptu tour, a cemetery caretaker stopped mowing long enough for a chat, we found EVERY ancestral grave marker for which we were looking in four cemeteries. We placed flowers at each plot as the capstone of our cemetery-hopping. And right about now, we have our feet up in our room and are enjoying the view.