Monday, March 15, 2010

Family Picnic

Although my father designed Indian Lakes Hotel, in Bloomingdale, Illinois, and such award-winning buildings as “The Round House,” the building that he loved the most was his own home in Barrington, Illinois.

My parents first purchased our property when I was seven years old. The land was vacant until I was eleven, at which point my parents had raised sufficient money to build their first Don Erickson home. Until then, we spent many summers in Barrington, where Dad designed and we built a tree house which spanned between four oak trees whose branches rose, cathedral-like, in the woods. We flew balsa-wood airplanes, crafted with our Dad, which had noisy, little engines which had a mind of their own. Our first airplane landed in the trees, flaying like a bird with a broken wing, the engine sputtering until it was out of fuel.

Mom would use a scythe to cut-down the expanse of weeds, and we would have family picnics. My parents would dream about where to build their house; on top of the hill, overlooking the expanse of land and the neighbor’s pond below? Or nestled in the woods where it was more private, leaving the ten acres of land to let wild raspberries grow. . .

Our first house originally had a flat roof with skylights – the floor plan was a long, one-story expanse of brick and wood…Brick which we helped to lay under the tutelage of our father, wood which we helped to stain. Just one year after moving in to our now-completed home, a tornado ripped through our property and lifted up the roof to the home, as if it were balsa wood, to send it sailing into the woods below. Undaunted, Dad redesigned the house, using the same floor plan, but this time he added his “Jamaican” roof; four, huge wood beams that curved upward into air, anointed by a skylight. I remember lying in my bed beneath the skylight in the “coach house,” and watching the stars above, feeling the expansiveness of nature. I lived in a home that invited nature in as if to say, “I am a part of you.”

1 comment:

Bradley W. Pattison said...

And how lucky was I... as a young unknown actor of 22 years old... to have my dear friends, Don & Shirley Erickson, not only take the time to come and see me in the show I was doing at the Mill Run theater, but after the show, Don invited the entire cast (stars and all!) for food and drinks at an extraordinary restaurant lounge he had been commissioned to design? Cascading levels of areas for guests to gather and converse in a type of privacy one almost never finds in such a public venue was but only one of the unique features of this wondrous place.

That same night, when it was time to leave, Don & Shirley asked me to come to the Barrington house and spend the night. I suspect they were concerned (and rightly so) that I had more to drink than a kid of 22 ought to have had! I spent that magical night in the "coach house" - which at that time was also part Shirley's painting studio as well a bed/guest room and was undoubtedly also used for other creative purposes. In the corner across from the bed where I would be sleeping, I saw splashes of vivid red and yellow ribbon-like strips of fabric carefully placed on a beautiful natural wood chair. I would learn (in later years) these strips of fabric were to be used to create some of the most incredible rugs I had ever seen at that point in my life. Then I noticed what Kyarn has just told you about: the skylight atop the "Jamaican" roof. From that moment forward I saw the universe watching over me and knew at once I was experiencing something far more than just special or unique. I had been give a gift, a privilege really, I would (nor could!) ever forget.

Bradley W. Pattison