Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Aquaintances

The bare walls act as an amplifier to the sound of my footfalls which echo through the empty house. My hands are full. Slowly I climb the steep wooden stairs to the attic and push gently on the door with my foot. I duck beneath the sloped ceiling and walk to the center of the room. I set my boxes down on the thick wooden floorboards. Dust fills my nose, causing me to sneeze once, twice, three times before I finally get used to it. I set down my parcels and now I breath deep. The smell of ages is prevalent here.
The musty gloom of the dark room is broken by the bright light from my flashlight as it falls on the many cardboard boxes and solid wooden chests that fill the room. Some have been stored here recently while others have thick layers of dust on them. These have lay undisturbed for a long time. The small box that contains my maternal grandfather's Cream of Wheat box shows where my fingertips grazed over it in November after Jenna informed me that she loved the stuff. The envelope containing my papers from my teaching morning at Bryantville Elementary School has been opened and set aside for further reading. For now they sit on my NEU transcript and my interview at Harvard. The box of Mom's Christmas ornaments has been set aside, waiting for the tree to be taken down and for each and every special ornament to be returned to its rightful place.
On the wall I see my "Silver Lake Lakers" pennant that has hung here proudly since 1983 and waved once more during my high school reunion. Beneath it is my yearbook; the physical representation of the shadows that I found in the faces of my aged classmates there.
I turn and bend down to the oversize box that contains Jenna's stuffed animals and the memory of Nana as she gave her great-granddaughter the giant stuffed lion to bring home one day. The lion was bigger than Jenna was at the time. I'm not sure whose eyes shone brighter - Nana's or Jenna's - as Jenna struggled to walk out the front door on Watson Road with her new prize. Next to this box is the glass case that carries within it Nana's stroke and its brutal aftermath. The cracks in it run deep and I usually leave this case alone. This season I gently dusted it off and looked inside for awhile.
On the shelf next to a bookcase I see the car keys to my 1972 Plymouth Belvedere laying there as they have for the last two decades. However, they were moved a bit when Jenna first took my car keys and drove the SAAB for the first time. Next to these car keys is a picture of my friend Nick, who truly became my friend when we attended Drivers Ed together back in 1982.
My gaze automatically wanders to the photos that line the wall. Some are crisp and new, because I view these pictures often. Others are old and faded, a reminder of friends who are now acquaintances at best. Their friendships lay somewhere in these boxes, too.
I look for an empty spot among the many, many boxes, chests and containers that are stacked throughout the room. I find a small spot that is clear of clutter and move my cargo to it. Here I stack the boxes full of seven years together, Sweet Sixteen, nephews and nieces and my new sister-in-law.
Next to these boxes I put a toboggan, river rapids, a syrup container from the Sugar House and moments of quiet majesty; all from Vermont.
On the nearby bookshelf I place my copies of "Desolation Island", "In Cold Blood", "Hornblower and the Hotspur", "Into the Wild", "A Team of Rivals" and "Watership Down".
On the wall I mount a picture of Jenn and Christoph, who came along unexpectedly but were no less welcome for it. I also place a picture of my friend Maura, once lost, now found again. I smile and thank her for reminding me what I was like before I became "me" and for remembering me fondly, anyway.
The setting sunlight falls through the window at the far end of the attic, illuminating the shadow of paw prints from Malcolm and Callie as they chase Doyle through the house. I let my fingers fall upon India's collar and remember my sweet old cranky cat. A tear falls unbidden to the dust that swirls at my feet.
Finally, I place a picture of President-Elect Obama inside a box labeled "Hope".
Happy New Year.


Blogger Fox In Detox said...

Happy New Year to you as well my friend. This one's gonna be a doozy.

9:24 AM, January 01, 2009  

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