In Our Old House
Our Memories take us where and when they will!
Pale and weather worn are the yellow painted clapboards of an old farmhouse , the screen door banging in the wind . Somehow the old torn screens catch a breaze even now , pushing open the front door , the one that never did have a lock on it , I enter the old kitchen and there on the left are the old white cupboards with the glass doors . An echo from somewhere of creaking timbers as even the wind tries desperately to abandon this place . If I take in a deep breath I can probably still smell the bleach and water on the old wooden counter top where a women's gnarled and twisted hands cleaned away after her boy children left the house for the day .
And turning right into the dining room with the water stained floral wall paper I look over where the old oak round dining table once sat , the one with the knife marks and initials carved on the worn edges . I stop for long moments and listen for more echoes , give it time I think , they too will come . Looking out one of the cracked windowpanes there, I see the driveway where we watched the seasons turn inside out , where company parked so often and across the dirt driveway the remaining post of the clothesline , where a mother hung our laundry regardless of the weather , no matter the season . Other memories flash by in black and white images too .
My father always sat right here , by the door to the kitchen after dinner .. Our family was a perhaps more of a kitchen table family , TV ? Hardly ever did we spend our hours there . We were much more apt to be at the dining table , homework opened and questions flying around the table ..............
" Who wants more spaghetti "? my mother
"Does anyone know who invented the stanley steamer ?" Al asks .
" Roland , wake up and go up to bed !" mother , getting frustrated at my fathers drinking too much.
"I wish you boys would quiet down a little " Father as he stumbles slightly , rising slowly to his six foot five height and retreating towards the stairway and bed , where he will read his Louis L'amour and Zane grey westerns until he begins snoring above us .
" Gordy , quit throwing toast at your brother " my mother says and begins clearing away the dishes ' who's going to help me with washing the dishes ?"
It is said that in time " that we tend to forget the bad memories and for the most part , we will remember only the good" . Perhaps I need a little more time yet . As I move over the sagging floor to the stairway and turn to the side door , looking out across the knee high grass on the lawn under the old silver maple tree still standing , to the old one lane road in front of the house where my eight year old brother was killed by a speeding D.U.I. driver , and the little nearly hidden ditch there where we found his body on the unmown roadside . But , I turn away from the uncomfortable colored images there .
Straight ahead to the living room where over in the front corner would be a tree , decorated for the holidays . The popcorn strings , glass bulbs and big old colored lights , the ones that still worked even with the missing bulb or two . The glass bulbs that were painted and yet chipped to reveal the white light inside ,The garland of silver foil and a bent and broken "angel " at the crooked little branch on top . The tree that we boys usually " found" out in the softwood stands by the river .,,,,,ah Christmas and our memories .
I turn and look up the worn and creaky stairway , where I didn't even have to go , as I remember every detail of each of the four bedrooms there . I remember the cold winter frost on the window frames and the howling cold north winds that shook the house . I remember listening to the oil furnace to see if it was still running or if one of us would have to go and push the re-set button in the dark cold night . I know as well of being cold , really cold , hungry and afraid of the night . Now I know that anxieties , youth depression and trauma are often only a part of some families in day to day living . I turn and go out to the wood shed and the driveway turning once to look down across the field to the river beyond and beyond that to the tallest of the White Mountains mount Washington . Lafayette , the "prudentials".
At once , a hundred memories flash before me , the sub-zero mist over the low and wide river
at the edge of our property , the thick ice , cracking and groaning beneath a foot and a half of new snow . The smell of wood burning and the smoke rising from the chimney then moving quickly sideways towards the pine trees above the house . All of it just beyond bitter sweet memories now , and we all know how that works right , "forget the bad and remember only the good "