Wednesday, July 8, 2009
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.