El Horno

I live in a brick ranch house that I'd like to think would make the fabled three little pigs give a second look were they hoofing around in my neighborhood.

The house was built by my grandfather Anthony Silva back in 1969. He had been a retired stone mason and decided at the tender age of seventy that he wanted to build his own home after the house he lived in with his family on Archer Street was taken over by eminent domain with the construction of Interstate 290 in Worcester.

Rather than moving the house which was much too expensive at the time, he decided to buy several plots on land off of Lincoln Street for both himself and his eldest son Arthur.

After my grandparents died and deeded the house to my parents, my mother did her best to make use of the bricks. As she suffered from undiagnosed Manic Depression when I was growing up, I can recall the many manic days and hours she spent kneeling on the grass arranging these leftover bricks in a myriad of clever landscaping designs around gardens my father grew and flower beds they tended together.

With the passage of time and the advent of my mother's more serious mental health and other complicated medical issues, the flowers died and eventually the weeds overtook all of my mother's intricate brickwork. When I moved back home in 1998 after the sudden death of my father, cleaning up both the inside and exterior of the house fell to me. It was an exhausting process. I found myself slowly removing all of the bricks to make mowing the lawn easier for me and began creating a pile of bricks in the corner of the backyard.

At times I looked to having the bricks professionally removed, but was always discouraged at how expensive it would be to make such a simple improvement to our yard. Then one day I thought to post an add on the Worcester County Freecycle Group hoping that someone-anyone-might have a use for them.

In a six degrees of separation moment, a woman named Lakele contacted me who quite coincidentally was a regular contributor to a blog I helped create for students learning English As A Second Language. We exchanged a few emails and made loose arrangements for her to come to the house anytime she'd like to collect the bricks.

Gathering all the bricks was very labor intensive because the bricks had to be moved from the very far end of my backyard, put into a wheel barrow, rolled down a steep incline and carefully arranged into the trunk of their car until the back end sagged from the weight of it all. But over time they took nearly all of my grandfather's excess bricks-even the broken in half ones. Lakele said she wanted the bricks to make an oven for their backyard.

The photograph above is the end result of last summer's project. They indeed built an outdoor oven aptly titled El Horno in Spanish. You can read Lakele's post on the Write-Write-Write blog by clicking here.

Lakele might have thought I was being very generous by donating all of my bricks, but in fact her oven making skill did what I consider a great honor to my family. She put to good use all of the bricks that my grandfather used to build the house that I'm living in today and my mother so lovingly touched all those years ago.

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  1. Very nice Kim. I saw El Horno at Lakale's house. Did she read your blog?