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The Chain Guard

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

As you know, we are in the midst of renovation madness, in the final sprint, up to our ears in door fixtures, paint decisions, mild panic attacks as The Virgo in the marriage questions ALL newly installed choices and then the realization hits: YOU CAN’T CHANGE YOUR MIND NOW ON THE TILE, IT IS IN FOR THE NEXT 100 YEARS. THE END. And yet, I digress.

As we were renovating our space, we found so many nooks and crannies in the house that were naturally going to be a bit odd to accommodate due to its history. Uneven floors here and there, a challenge placing old doors in newly built doorways and an even greater challenge in the blueprint phase of the reno, where we had to drop part of the floor to keep two brick arches original to the house (that is a story all on its own). But, this is the truly important part of renovating an old home. You can’t, you shouldn’t- try to makeup over her “scars.”

The beautiful, magical essence of a home that has seen many decades is the benevolent trail of breadcrumbs she leaves for her subsequent caretakers. The brail of history etched in her walls, the cracks of stone spin into tales that are left for you to narrate. So many times we see an older home molded into an era she wasn’t made to grace. Imagine trying to take Ava Garner out of her satin shift and put her in 90’s jumpsuit joggers. It is all wrong, it is sacrilege, it does no honor to her NOR does it do honor to the era of the 90’s. It is a false reflection of what you think “should be” because we are in a certain time and some things are denoted to be “popular”….arbitrarily….but then, if you choose just the moment and not the moments past, you have not listened to the soul of the house.

Our home was built after WW2 by a couple named Elmer and Glenda. Elmer and Glenda installed, (or had someone install) a chain guard on the back outside door off the kitchen. When we removed the old door from the back of the house and repurposed it elsewhere, the ancient chain guard was left on the side of the newly formed hallway. Discussion ensued. “Remove it” “Keep it.” “Is it weird?” “It doesn’t go with the new hallway.”……but, doesn’t it?

This is the reality. Our home had a doorway on the back, and it had a lock. It was there for 72 years. It protected E and G and their kids, their dogs; someone moved the chain back and forth likely multiple times a day, an unconscious but necessary part of life in our home. The Korean War happened, and the chain lock was there. President Kennedy was shot, and someone probably locked the door that day. Vietnam, Watergate, 9/11…it all occurred and still, the chain guard stood sentry, doing its job, moving in the same fashion day after day, something that could be relied on. I always imagine Elmer and Glenda carrying groceries in for some reason, placing the packages down, then reaching up to use the chain guard, locking themselves into their nest to make dinner. To live life.

We ultimately decided the chain guard stays, and it stays exactly where it has always lived and protected a door since right after WW2. It stays to remind us of what was there in years before us, in the time when Elmer and Glenda took care of the house and made it their own.

There is no longer a door for our chain guard to lock. But, there is a need for me to know that a door was once there, and in case I ever forget (or anyone wants to know), the chain guard is there to remind us. Right smack in the middle of an empty wall, with no door. And I am going to look at it everyday and think of Elmer and Glenda.

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