Sunday, June 10, 2012

Things Change: A Sunday Story-Meditation

I remember the house on the corner.

Or perhaps truer: I have the impression of memories of the house that stood on that corner, hazy, floating, shifting images from my earliest childhood.  In what I can still access of my child's mind, it was a white-frame, two-story house with a screened wraparound porch.  A mirror image, in fact, of the house on the other end of the block, both facing my grandmother's house from the north side of the street.

That other house is sharp in my memory for a variety of reasons.  I was more than a little in love with the big, boisterous teenaged boy who lived in it with his mother and sister: his hair slicked with Brylcreem redolent of spice and roached back in the style of the early fifties, his swagger and his tight-fitting t-shirts.  

And there was a day full of surprise when my adoration for the boy of the roached black hair almost caused a disaster.  This was the day on which my mother came home from the hospital with my new baby brother, her last-born son, and laid him in the middle of her mother's bed.  

Whereupon Mrs. Hopkins and her son and daughter came across the street to see the newborn Lindsey boy.  And I, wild with delight at the chance to see my teen idol, stunned with excitement at the new baby brother, ran into the bedroom, grabbed my brother by his feet, and proceeded to pull him off the bed, shouting, "Come see what we have, M.!"  

My mother reached the bed just in time to catch my brother's head before it bounced onto the floor.

I remember that particular house--the house of the dark, screened wraparound porch similar to its mate at the other end of the same block--for another vivid reason: from that porch one day, Mrs. Hopkins spied me peeing into my grandmother's bridal wreath bushes on the north side of the house, and, as neighbors thought nothing of doing those days, as they thought it their duty to do, immediately telephoned in a report of my terrible, terrible transgression.

Properly Brought-Up Little Boys Do Not Pee in Public, I was told in no uncertain terms.  And in Mama's bridal wreath!  What can you have been thinking?

And ah, the slipping and sliding of childhood memory accessed in old age: I now google my childhood crush and find he's a mere 6 years older than I am.  So the boy I'm remembering as a teen in 1953 would have been only 9 or 10 years old then--though I do recall him as a teen after that, and have superimposed my memory of him at a later date on the 1953 story of my brother's birth.

And then one day along came the wrecking crews, and in a day's time, as my child self remembers it, both houses were torn to the ground.  And up sprung a glittering new grocery store, one my family welcomed, since my aunt who did all the shopping and cooking for my grandmother and my uncle, and for the families of her siblings who were forever visiting the grandmother's house, didn't drive.  Didn't have a car.  Couldn't drive, so that friends picked her up and brought her to and from her schoolteaching job at a school several blocks away.

The store would make it so much easier, we all told ourselves, for Kat to nip over to the store, do the shopping, and then come back home and cook.  For all of us.  

There were years of delightful shopping with Kat, who knew how and where to pinch a cabbage, squeeze a bunch of celery, or palm a head of lettuce to be assured of its freshness, and who taught me to do all those things along with her, to recognize and value quality in food selected for the table.  Delightful to help her pick out the freshest loaf of the whole-wheat bread she loved so much, and to see her smile and nod at the mothers of all her pupils of the current year and of many years past, each of whom seemed to dote on her every bit as much as anyone else did.

Years passed.  I went off to college, the houses across the street along the eastern side of the store were converted into a) a junk shop, b) a chiropractic office, c) a top-end Swiss restaurant whose flamboyantly gay owner was murdered one night by an irate former employee in front of a crowd of diners spooning up raclette, d) and a beauty shop.  Kat's beauty shop where her hair was styled and dyed a fresh and often surprisingly violent shade of red every other week.  And where she was robbed one Saturday afternoon by a teen who came behind her running on soft-soled shoes, snatched her purse, and jumped into a waiting car, as she wheeled around and shouted, "You sorry little bastard, you!" at his retreating back.

The store shifted from Safeway to Kroger.  First my grandmother died, then Brother, then Kat, and when Billie, the youngest daughter of the family, the only one left living, and I inherited the house, we sold it within a few months to Steve's brother, who did a spectacular renovation of it and now rents it out.

I don't go inside the house any longer.  Though I could not be happier to see it completely renovated, absolved of its dark Victorian nooks, crannies, and draperies, if perhaps not rid of all its ghosts, it's too sad to see the place entirely different, no longer the Childhood Home of which I have dreamt recurrently throughout my life.  The place in which, in one vivid dream, a very angry, scowling Pope John Paul II wielding a crozier as a weapon came chasing my gay self through the dark attic to which I predictably retreat when monsters show their faces in my dreams . . . . 

And on that corner, the one I remember only vaguely, the one of the matching wraparound screened porch, a Thai food truck now sits four afternoons and evenings in the week.  Friends tell me the food is good, and we intend to try it.  I understand the young man operating the truck is a lawyer who loves Thai food, though he's not Thai himself, not in the least.  He simply loves to cook more than he does to lawyer.

And so the food truck.  Where I remember a house.

And a reminder to me of how in this world of woe and pain mixed with ecstasy and delight, nothing ever stays the same.  Not for a minute or a millisecond of a minute.

No matter what we try to amber forever in our heads and hearts.

The ambered fly is from the Gemology Project website, and is by Conny Forsberg.

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