What the House Holds

The floor still creaks the same, and the hall gives the sound a shape that my heart knows.   I shed snow pants, boots, and gloves there, the bluish light of four o’clock in winter peering in through the living room windows.  Warm light at the end of the hall, the clamor of pots being wrestled out of the cupboards, the light dry sizzle of meat on cast iron, drew me, with reddened nose and cheeks and hat hair, wet socks, and frozen toes.

The stools at the counter made their own bark of wood-on-wood, because some of the legs had lost their felt circles, and I slipped my feet on to the rungs and climbed to watch her.  My mother was a whirlwind in the kitchen; frying, steaming, baking, cleaning, and it’s only after the years have made me a mother that I can see my limbs took notes, my hands work the same way, resting on my hips when I’m thinking what to do next.  Stir the sauce and bang the wooden spoon on the edge to clean it.

Why do my eyes fill so?

Voyeurism can take many forms.  I stalk my childhood home on real estate sites.  I see pictures of the rooms; I hear the rooms.  My memories lays over the changed paint and fixtures; it places the characters back in the scene.  My brother draws with me in the dining room, my sister is slouched in a wing chair by the fireplace, listening to music on her Walkman.  Our cat Annie weaves through our legs under the table.  But then, the photo reasserts itself, gone are the leather chairs that came from a courthouse once upon a Montana auction.  Gone are the purrs under the table, gone the table, and the small people who didn’t know all that the house held.

These were the rooms that heard my Grandma Gwen’s voice; I can still hear her voice and how the room would shape it.  Even a grown woman can still want to curl up in a lap like hers and hear, “Oh now, it’s okay.  You’re going to be just fine.”

Why do my eyes pour so?

I banged those doors in anger, teenage rage blasting the frames.  Even so, there was still the warmth of the kitchen at the end of the hallway.  There was a bone-wearied parent yet stirring, scrubbing, and kneading; work that called down the hall “Even so, I love you”.

There were sadnesses, houses hold those too; somehow as years pass I find less of them in my memory; they are outshone by all the life and light that was there.

I write from my house, this house that accepts all these new characters as if they were expected, written in the script from the first shovelful of dirt at the turn of the century, when the house was becoming, rising up from a field, sticks and lathe and brick.

There they are, gathered on stools that scrape against the tile, felt pads lost, watching me cook.  They don’t know yet; all that this house holds.


2 thoughts on “What the House Holds

  1. So sorry that the time has come for your parents to sell their house, but it seems the memories you have will not be sold with the framework. Your images are so vivid and poetic. Thank you. I enjoy your stories and the way they touch me.

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