Sunday, March 22, 2009

Jogging Memories

On Friday, Bernie and I tackled yet another section of the garage, where Things have been piled on Other Things ... kind of like a storage area chromosomally merged with a landfill.

"This thing has got to go," Bernie stated, kicking a hanging file cabinet on wheels. "It's worthless."

"That," I pointed out to him, "is full of all our old photographs."

And indeed it was. So we spent the afternoon going through folders of photos, savagely tossing blurred pictures, pictures of people neither one of us could remember, stacks of "double copies." He would scan through an envelope, make his cut, hand the packet to me, and I'd cut again. Some I remembered fondly, and others I hadn't remembered at all.

This is one of them. This is the house I grew up in.

The door to that house -- the back door -- my father installed, as well as the open stairwell leading to it and to the cellar. The original door can be faintly seen to the left of the window. That used to have steps down to the yard, steps which I remember because I used to sit on them and kick at Spot, the springer spaniel, who would grab my shoe and growl fiercely, making me laugh.

This picture is at least a year, or more later than Spot's demise. I would have been six or seven, I think. My parents had just opened their nursery venture, and turned the back yard into a retail sales area.

I recognized globe arborvitae, pyramidal yews, junipers, birch in their neat lines. At first when I looked at the photo I thought there were white flaws on the photo surface, only to realize with a laugh that those were price tags on the shrubs.

The trees in the right distance belonged to The Meadow, that fabled place of black raspberries and nettles, snakes and honeysuckle thickets, rape gangs and worlds filled with siren song of exploration. To see those tall locust trees and bushy box elders is to remember the many beatings I got for sneaking off into danger, and to remember all the paths and lookouts and sights and wonders I could never resist.

I don't know why my mother sent me this -- and one other -- old photo; she told me that she gave away her old box of family photographs to one of my father's second cousins, a comment that still makes me angry, as I am probably the only person in the living world who really cared about them. But I try to let that anger go, and appreciate what I've got -- so many memories set alight by just this one picture.

And now writing this, I understand that the unearthing of those memories is what has been setting off depressing nightmares the past two nights. Hmm.

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