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paxton-chapman-farmhouse

My father was inhabiting his house by himself, after Mother’s death, and it was time to simplify things, like fancy window dressings and shelves of collectibles gathering dust. A few years passed before we arrived at a stage when my one visit a month could provide just enough time to sweep and dust and finish laundry, so that he would have an easier time doing what he needed to do by himself. Part of that process was replacing the sheer curtains and drapes with mini-blinds. My brother generously supplied the mini-blinds for sixteen large double-hung windows. They looked neat and they were versatile for providing light when needed and privacy when it was needed.

After ten years there by himself, and the loss of his driver’s license, the day finally came when he could no longer live there. It was a sad day, and we had to stop at the end of the lane for him to take a long last look, before we moved on to Burlington, where he would live at my house.

The question remained—what would we do with the property? Larry Schwing had worked with my father for years, and he had gradually assumed more of the responsibility for the farm until he was the full-time tenant farmer. The income from the farm would accumulate and provide what was needed for my father’s eventual move to assisted living and then nursing care. The house could contribute in the same way. We cleared the house of furnishings, held a sale of the items that would no longer be needed, and prepared for renters. The Larry Magelitz family arrived just when the house was ready. It would provide a comfortable home for the couple and their two little boys. Their life there went well for their first several months, until routine blood tests showed warning levels for lead in the little boys. It was a small indication, but there is no safe level for lead in children, and we were all upset that we had exposed them to danger in the old house.

We arranged for lead testing throughout the house. There were many painted surfaces, plenty of places where peeling paint and other materials could have been the source, but none of them showed a positive test for lead. Finally, the relatively new mini-blinds were tested, and the surprise came. They were saturated with lead, and the dust from their painted surfaces showed the positive results we had been searching for. The new mini-blinds from China were the source. There was no inspection or restriction of lead on anything that was being imported in the country. We quickly stripped the house of every set of blinds and sent them to the landfill. After a thorough cleaning, the Magelitz family was able to live there until a new job took them away. Another young family soon took their place, and, happily, they could enjoy the house for eleven years without fear of lead contamination. My parents always enjoyed the young families that lived nearby as their neighbors. We knew that they blessed the use of their home for these families and would want them to live there in safety.

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