Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Shades



Continuity is the main pursuit of my adult life. I live three blocks from my childhood home, I send Hedgehog to the same school I attended for 12 years, and before that to the little preschool that I went to in the 1970s, and my own mother attended in the 1940s. We summer in an old cabin by a lake in which four generations of Weather in the Streets girls have summered over the span of seventy years.

Sameness is a sort of obsession for me. But it is not always easy, inhabiting the places of one’s youth and of the generations before. There is a sometimes awful burden of memory that one must carry in the places of the past. On some nights, putting Hedgehog to sleep in my old bed, I hear my dead father’s mug of hot chocolate gently tapping down on the side table, the soft swish as he turns the page in his novel, an occasional creak as he shifts in the chair, and much later the click of the lamp being turned off. His chair sits in the very same corner of the living room in our lake house. The very books he read still occupy the nearby shelves. I know he’s gone, but at the same time he isn’t really. Just as my grandma Eva still hangs her sheets on a sunny windy day. As Aunt Abby drinks Tab and lime in her striped beach chair by the water. As Grandpa Max walks the Dobermans in the field behind the house—I can hear their collars jingling—and sometimes I know I see his shadow among the lengthening shadows of the trees.

I like that they’re still there, where I live; the animals and the people. But I know also that I’m bound to the old much too tightly; I can’t get away. If I leave, you see, I leave them all behind and it is over.







(I like ghost stories very very much, and if you'd like to read two more from my past, check out Window Ledge and one about dad.

32 comments:

Megan said...

First? Maybe not by the time I finish typing this.

There is something very strong and good about that kind of continuity. Sometimes I wish I had it still. Other times I'm glad to have left most of it behind!

Great post, as always. You've got me thinking. As always!

The Idle Devil said...

Continuity is special...especially as you put Hedgie to bed and all those memories come rushing back. I hope I'll be able to do the same for my child whenever it comes into this world. And, the Window Ledge...makes me shiver each time I read it :)

Ronda Laveen said...

I'd like to sit and have a cup of hot chocolate with your father. I, too, am bound to the old. I feel comfortable there. I know I should release it and move to the future, which I like too, but old things and places lure me.

savannah said...

how lovely to have your history so physically present in your life, sugar. xoxo

nick said...

I'm completely the opposite when it comes to family. I want as few links as possible to a childhood I found very constraining. I now live well away from my mum and sister! For me continuity is more continuity of my own identity and using whatever opportunities there are around me to foster it.

But that's a wonderful description of all the layers of memory and experience you're embedded in.

kylie said...

hi leah
nice to see you post, even with broken computer and anaesthesia

PI said...

Leah it's never over; your lost loved ones never leave you. The environs are important - but not that important. If you had been reared in an ugly industrial mill town y0u would, like me I fancy have left it with never a backward glance.
But there are still beautiful parts of England full of happy childhood memories and this house which my parents loved to visit but I know if the house gets too much and we leave they'll still be with me.

Baino said...

OH Leah. ...I don't believe in ghosts but I do believe in the strength of continuity and memory. I still see my mum passing by my kitchen window about to come in for a cup of tea after an evening shift of delivering babies, I still see my dad, pruning and sitting in the shade in his old tracksuit and silly hat. It's comforting to know that their memory is alive and well even if they aren't. Sadly, they don't visit . .ethearially or in any other way and I miss them much and so hope they would. Still, they're in my heart and around my house in the form of fond memories.

Suzanne said...

Oh sweetie. You know me and my grandmother. I wouldn't want her to leave. It matters that she's still in my life. Her address and phone number still remain in my book and I often look and remember. I can't write or call her, but she was once real. It matters. I miss her terribly, so feeling her in the garden or talking to her as I'm navigating difficult moments, or grand, matters. And yes, I talk to her often. And yes, she guides me still. And yes, I still run my fingers over the ink just to feel her and remember it was all real.

Beautiful, thoughtful post darling. Love you so. XO

Suzanne said...

Thank you.

The Unbearable Banishment said...

Believe me, if you had grown up in Cleveland, as I did, instead of Brooklyn, you’d have gotten your ass out of town in a hurry. Speaking of…Mrs. Wife and I won a night at the Brooklyn Marriott and dinner at the River CafĂ© at a charity gift auction. We’ll be there on Sunday. When I first got to NYC [mumble-mumble] years ago, I first settled in Boerum Hill--the corner of Hoyt and Bergen. So it’ll be a trip down memory lane.

mapstew said...

Leah, that was beautiful.
And it's brought a lot to the forefront of my own mind.
Thanks. xxx

Brian Miller said...

beautiful piece. there is something to continuity...in our moving we leave so much behind...both tactile and in the ghosts of our memories. i think hedgie will appreciate them as well. great post!

Jimmy Bastard said...

"There is a sometimes awful burden of memory that one must carry in the places of the past."

You have my hand on yours... It can be a long lonely road hen.

Marianna said...

I loved your story Leah!

So true what you say about revolving and evolving in the places you grew up. I get that feeling too sometimes :)

Happy TT
xoxo

otin said...

Great story! I thought that I was following your blog? I guess that I am the ghost!

Kris said...

If a ghost is killed by a ghostbuster, can it have a ghost?

Candie Bracci said...

Hello Leah!Sorry I thought i've seen all the posts and it seemed that I forgot you,so sorry!That wasn't on purpose!

Ya know I know that they are still around.We know.I totally believe that they would do their own things,the things they were doing before.

Have a nice day

Poetikat said...

This was just lovely - so poignant and tender. I heard that mug click on the night-table because my husband often brings me coffee in the morning in the same way.

I envy your connection to sameness. It seems everything in my life is gradually being torn away.

Kat

Cece said...

It promotes nostalgia.

Kurt said...

I've had the urge to visit the city where my grandparents lived for a couple of years and stop by the old house.

Leah said...

Megan--that's the whole continuity conundrum. Sometimes I wish I could just sort of run away from it all! And sometimes I really feel for Sarge, who has had to adopt all my ghosts along with me...

Devil--I guess I will just look at it as something I'm giving Hedgehog--she does benefit from knowing about her past, and I think she enjoys being in the places where I was as a child.

Ronda--My dad would totally like you! I wish you guys could sit down over a cup of hot cocoa. You and I are the same in our feelings about the past.

savannah--it is lovely, I think...other times, not so...I guess for me, in the end, the good outweighs or I would be living 3000 miles away from where I do now...

nick--"continuity of my own identity"...yes, I strive for that too, very well-said (as always my dear!). That is exactly the problem with too much external continuity. Sometimes it's hard to figure out where they end and you begin!

Kylie--yes, neither rain nor sleet nor broken computer nor anaesthesia can keep me from the swift completion of my appointed rounds!!!

Baino--your comment brought tears to my eyes.

Leah said...

Pat--I keep trying to remind myself that they never leave you, but somehow I'm all bound up in the tangible reminders. You are absolutely right, though. Absolutely.

Suzy--I still have my dad's phone number in my cell phone, even though the number belongs to someone else now! See, those tangible reminders can be a gateway to something deeper...

UB--Oh, I hope you have fun on your night out! Sarge and I had our wedding party at the River Cafe, just a very few friends and family, after being married by a judge at Brooklyn Supreme Court. So I have fond feelings for that place. And you know what? We lived, when we were first married, in an apartment on State and Bond, right around the corner from Bergen and Hoyt! Actually in that place we were closer than you to Fulton Street and Downtown Bklyn, which wasn't really that much fun at night. We ended up moving soon after a guy got shot at our corner deli. We figured it was just sort of time...but it was a really pretty, totally rent-controlled apartment, the last of a dying breed...

Leah said...

map--I hope it didn't make you too sad, I know you're dealing with a lot right now! And I always say, sometimes it's easier to compartmentalize pain and everyday life, to separate the two...alas, I am not very successful at this task.

Brian--thanks, wise words. I do hope Hedgie will get something good out of it, and not feel too oppressed...

Jimmy--how well you know it too, right? Thank you for being sweet.

Leah said...

Marianna--I do hope to evolve, even though for all purposes I'm a bit stuck in the past! I like the idea of evolution. I'll remember it.

Otin--hello ghostie! you have revealed yourself--I'm a believer!

Kris--I've given this some deep thought. Yes, a ghost killed by a ghostbuster can have a ghost. No question about it.

Candie--I believe too! It's just easier that way!

Kat--you know, the strange irony is that I feel that things are being torn away from me lately too--well, I've felt that way for awhile now--perhaps that's why I cling so tightly! I'm just not sure it works though...

Cece--one of the commenters in a previous post said that nostalgia is the memory of good without the bad (of course they said it better than I did just now). But that's surely true--I'm remembering the good not the awful.

Kurt--it is very strange to visit the old houses--when one hasn't been there in awhile--memories come rushing back in!

Madame DeFarge said...

I don't have that sense of continuity in my life, having moved around a lot. My parents don't live where I grew up, I'm not in touch with anyone from more than 10 years ago and I avid looking backwards whenever possible. I envy you in some ways. When I look back, all I see is a series of unconnected events that make up my life, not a seamless thread.

mago said...

I happily avoid to wake some memories.

merelyme said...

Okay. Sorry...but...
"But I know also that I’m bound to the old much too tightly; I can’t get away."
...did anyone else see the reference in this entire paragraph to books too? Books? People? All the same to me - they all can be read and offer connections!
Again Leah...ditto - fantab post.

lettuce said...

i think they'd go with you, one way or another

Leah said...

Mme DeF--I suppose that both ways can be hard at times. But you could also see yourself as maybe more free than I am! I don't know--the tyranny of memory or something like that...

mago--me too. Believe me, I do too.

merelyme--you're right! Good catch. Very interesting, I hadn't done it consciously. Or maybe I had, now I can't remember...

lettuce--you're right. I just have to make myself test the hypothesis!

books,coffee,etc.... said...

Hi! Leah,
Something about your post here on ghost is so very "bittersweet"
I like your...reflection about each of your family members.

and then your...resolve, which is your last sentence to why it's so important for you to
keep the "memories" of your family members, "alive!"...

...Leah, I'am so glad that I stopped by!
Take care! and... Thanks, for the Get-well wishes!

DeeDee ;-D

muralimanohar said...

What an great post. It's something I have zero concept of...my connection to "home" has ALWAYS been the people in it, since the exterior changed constantly at a very rapid rate. Still happening, come to think of it.

Re ghosts..I refuse to read your stories, in case they are about real ones, cause it is the middle of the night here, and I am prone to being bothered by them! :p