The Mantel

When we moved into our home on Cambridge Lane in Wilmette, the place was pretty much in order. Except for the fireplace – that had bare bricks and swabs of concrete. We were pretty busy at the time (new jobs and a baby) so this eyesore was ignored. Until. . . .

Donna and I flew out to New York to visit her family and then take a drive up north. We went to Ogunquit, Maine and stayed at a motel near the beach. We dined on lobster. More lobster. Oh – and we also had lobster. And that was just breakfast. . . . . And we motored around to see the sights.

There was an antique shop a 6 iron away so we went in and immediately spied a beautiful, wood fireplace mantel. Ornate. Carved. The owner of the shop said it had come from a Victorian mansion in Bar Harbor – that had been torn down. It looked like it might fit our space so I called my father who hustled over to our house to take measurements. And it was perfect. We bought it for sixty bucks and carried the monster back to the motel. And we started thinking about – how the heck do we get it home? We tied it to the roof of our rental car and drove back to Donna’s family home in Rye, NY. And I got on the phone with American Airlines. “I have a mantel piece that I bought. Can I check it through on our flight to Chicago?” The answer was “yes.” Three times. And I scribbled the names of those who had given the thumbs up.

A few days later, we arrived at LaGuardia – suitcases and the mantel wrapped in a blanket. It was about five feet square and a foot deep. I lugged it up to the check in counter and was told – “absolutely not. Your item exceeds the size limit.” I trotted out the names of those who had said “no problem.” And I wouldn’t budge. Finally the exasperated clerk directed me to talk to Mister Puccio who was “over there” (pointing to a chap busily attending to customers). I nudged in – excused myself and said that the lady “back there” wanted his approval for me to put a mantel piece on the plane. He looked up – waved a “go ahead” to the woman I’d been talking to. And she relented – on the grounds that I carry it down to the plane. True. I did. Baggage handlers helped position it in the hold of the plane. We took off and the mantel was first off the plane at O’Hare. And promptly affixed to our fireplace. Bada boom!