The charm of the photos summoned me to look closer and survey the details. The solemn faces of immigrants in a copper wash of sepia, Victorian beauties coifed in impossible hats, a broad-shouldered crew in rowboats, white-smocked babies with rattle scepters, and fresh-faced boys in uniform photographed in the stark sincerity of black and white. Family photos from the 70s, in overexposed colors as vivid and unnatural as the fashions. Pimply teens in plaid pantsuits and smiling women, hair curled to stiff cornucopias. Linear lives measured in shutter clicks. Moments in time caught in a net of film and a liter of chemical.
I followed the line of photos on the wall, daring to reach out and touch one. The change from film to digital marked a paradigm shift in technology--an implausible leapfrog from Hell to Valhalla. Colors suddenly vivid and real seemed to jump out from modern frames; silhouettes pixelized and photo-shopped to perfection--redefining reality. The faces, the voices, ectoplasms drifting through plaster and sheetrock, treading water at the ceiling, eavesdropping on conversation and content. The faces of those who loved and were loved.
Strolling with familiar ease through the rooms and corridors, I sank into the comfort of an overstuffed wingback chair, and lolled backwards onto a tufted velvet divan. With the house so still, so quiet, my ears tuned in to the slightest sound. I could almost swear I heard people conversing in the parlor. And there were other sounds as well. Scraping for instance. Aunt Agnes, one leg shriveled by the polio, dragged her cane when she walked. And Skeeter, our favorite Lab used to skitter across the polished floor when he ran.
And the melodious voices of children echoing through barren hallways, bouncing balls or pinging pebbles in hopscotch squares. Voices resonating through empty rooms once filled with posters, school banners and trophies.
Later, I witnessed apparitions--newlyweds crossing the threshold, presiding over ghostly dinners, babies crying, crayon drawings hanging like masterpieces on the refrigerator. Though I could scarce believe it, I saw gossamer images of children grow up before my eyes; the chubby limbs of youth grown lean and long. Young lives filled with promise. Dreams lofty as tree houses.
Every plank and timber, tile and joist is steeped, infused, and saturated with memories. The place is crowded with them. But don’t rely on my testimony. I’m an old woman. My eyes are dim, memory foggy, legs stiff as corn stalks. Perhaps I see and hear things that are not really there. Perhaps I only wish they were there.
Come and see for yourself. In fact, today is a good day to visit. Maybe your last chance.
Today is moving day. I watched as men in jumpsuits packed, wrapped and carried my life away. The curtains gone--beds and mattresses, dressers, chiffarobe, chairs, divans—all out the door. Strangers hard at work, gathering bushels of history, of sweet memories. Life’s triumphs and tragedies bubblewrapped and hidden away in double-taped boxes.
The objects that meant so much to me will no doubt find their way to tag sales. The pictures, a mere curiosity for strangers to wonder about. But the memories, the love are mine to keep. My heart overflows with the extraordinary treasures of an ordinary life.
One last look, a longing glance, and I closed the door, which clicked shut with surprising ease. To a grand foyer, the grandest foyer I'd ever seen.