Audrey woke me up from a vivid dream in which I was driving in the snow – which I have never done in real life – and came across my childhood home. In my dream, I asked to look around the old place. Needless to say, it was weird and not at all the way it really was, but I still wanted to see the upstairs. Audrey had other plans, and so did I, seeing as it was 3:30 am.
Audrey, Audreyer, Audreyest…
I gave everyone a snack and went back to bed, but I couldn’t rejoin my dream. Doesn’t it seem like you can only pick up the threads of interrupted nightmares?
Later that day, I saw a little girl holding her father’s hand and skipping as they went into the Gro, and it reminded me of the long-ago Saturdays when Dad would pile us into the old Chevy and take us grocery shopping and then to the library. In retrospect, it seems odd that he didn’t leave us at home, but a lot of things about my childhood seem strange looking back, even to the allegedly grown-up me.
First we’d go to the Victory Market, with its big red V, and then to the old stone library, where Miss Opal, the librarian, would let me take out extra books. In Maine during the summer, we’d go to the Shop & Save and then to the old brick library, with its glamorous wooden gallery and echoing marble foyer. At the end of the summer, there was a book sale, which was almost as exciting as the Fourth of July boat race or the lab picnic.
Our house was set in fields overlooked by gentle hills:
We had five acres of land, which included a grove of pine trees from which we’d choose a Christmas tree each year. I still remember the clear sound of the axe ringing against the fragrant wood in the cold, clean air, and the triumphant feeling of dragging it home across the snow and into the house.
Legend had it that the five acre parcel of land was payment to a Revolutionary War soldier for his service, and certainly the stone foundation of the house, which was built in the early to mid 1850s, was much older than the house. I’d like to think the tale was true, though that valiant young man might not have been best pleased to find an Englishman living on his hard-won property.
In my mind, I can still step up on the flagstone step, to the door into the closed-in porch, and through the red front door into our house. The living room, with its fireplace and the bookshelves Dad built, is to the left and the kitchen straight ahead, with a pass through to the dining room. Dad’s study and the powder room/laundry room are on this floor.
There’s a landing on the stairs where our dog Ginger used to sleep when Dad was home (he slept in front of the door when Dad was away). Upstairs is a bathroom, with a laundry chute which we always found thrilling, and all our bedrooms. My bed was set under the eaves, and Dad had built a window seat for me overlooking the view you see above – the perfect place to read. Once I came home from a visit to my grandparents’ house to find that Dad had painted my room “Fantasy Orchid”, a color I had been pleading for and he had been vetoing for weeks.
I haven’t set foot in that house in decades, but it’s still there in my memories, just like Mom and Dad and my grandparents and all the golden days of the past. Time seems to burnish more than it tarnishes when it comes to memories.
A YEAR AGO: Shopping with the lovely Miss Stella.