Everything popped. Today was the day you notice that the trees are more green than brown; when you see the occasional flowering tree in full bloom; when the lawn doesn't have that zombie green you see when the snow recedes but true green, real living grass. It's wonderful!
And there are the same old dead spots! From last year! Time to worry about the lawn again, alas. I would not be concerned except there's just so much of it. This odd lot on which only one house could be built has a great sloping lawn with some shaded spots that defy thick growth. Every year I say this is the year it'll all be green. And every year I am relieved when the snow finally covers my shame.
But ah, spring.
This is usually the view we get in early May. Could it be we're due the spring and summer we haven't had for a few years? Warm, long, lush, a glorious verdant interval whose conclusion we don't mind any more than you object to springing to your feet after a marvelous performance.
I am delusional; it'll probably snow in two weeks.
Daughter dealt one of those javelins kids can toss with such ease, and even though they don't aim, you find it quivering in your sternum as if hurled by a professional soldier. I was talking about the bathroom overhaul, necessitated by The Leak, and she said:
"Why do all that when you're going to sell the house in a few years anyway?"
"Well, after I go to college. I don't know. Aren't you going to move when you retire? To Arizona?"
Nobody's retiring and we're not going to - hold on, doesn't the house mean anything to you?
Eye roll. (She was tired and really not thinking about any of this.) "No it doesn't. Of course it does."
Won't you want to come home to your own room? But this shot a sluice of ice through my heart, as I remembered my own experience. How my childhood room was full of reproach. All of these totems of life before the big leap, all these past passions. It just wasn't my room anymore. Granted, it literally wasn't my room: when I left, my sister took my room because it was bigger, and I took her old tiny room, which had been the sewing room. (I have one memory of sitting in the room with my mother as she sewed, and I called her "a broad," a term I had heard on an old afternoon movie. She found it amusing but was also stern about using the word again.) The room had never been mine, and to find my old furniture and trophies and books and records transplanted was odd and foreign. My mother had put a picture of me from 4th grade over the bed, Innocent Boy of Great Potential, and it beamed down like an accusation, like a picture from my stint in some East German school that trained bloodless bureaucrats:
I HAD BETRAYED HIM BY GOING AWAY
Books from early childhood were still in the sliding drawers in the headboard: HAPPINESS IS A WARM PUPPY and other Peanuts books I couldn't care less about. There was my old Panasonic radio, which had got me up at 5 AM to catch the bus for Speech tournaments, my old desk blotter, cast-off items from junior high - nothing was who I was now, and it felt like a space capsule prepared by kind aliens who had only the most rudimentary information about their passenger.
As I said, reproach. Going home was always hard because I couldn't wait to leave, and this made me feel horrible. I simply couldn't talk to my parents without fissures turning into canyons and stranding us on opposite sides, and it had been so since high school. It was my mother's overwhelming worry, really. I was not on the right path. I was not the boy in the 4th grade picture. Can't blame her, understand exactly, but dagnabit it's hard to talk about what you're interested in, who you are, when you get a worried talk about the fact that you're listening to too much Mahler. (She had read something or heard someone on a talk show say that Mahler was for disturbed people.) MAHLER for God's sake. It would be years before it was apparent I was not turning into Charles Buchowsky, but I never shook the feeling when I pulled in the driveway: now to try to be someone else.
Not uncommon by any means. Grownups don't see what kids see, how unchanging elements in your house can make it seem as if time stopped, and when you're a kid time is rushing ahead at a thrilling pace. For some the old familiar things might be comforting, depending on how you felt when you were growing up. For others they might seem like signals that life here has ground to a halt. To be honest, I wouldn't have cared if they'd moved after I left. Something new. Cool!
But this isn't what I want to hear, because of course you want the homestead to be full of warm happy memories, a constant in a changing world, a familiar refuge. It never occurs to you that sometimes the kids might be secretly pleased to be relieved of the burden of memory, to stand in a place where they're not wondering whether they're being seen as they are, or as they were in years they cannot remember. Maybe it's a gift to leave. To make a new place, and keep a spare room with a few pertinent things when the child comes home. BUT NO. This was going to be the last place; that's what I felt when I saw it, when I put down the bid, sweated for a night, and got the news: I'm Batman.
(Really: the house has a subterranean tunnel that goes to the garage, which is on the street level. The house , as I noted above, is on a hill. When I toured the house on that fateful day Uncle Gary the Realtor took me to see it, I thought this is like the passage to the Batcave, and I put in a bid on the spot. It was accepted that day, and I said: I'm Batman.)
Moving in was one of the happiest days of my life. The nights I've stood on the Cliff and looked down at the great expanse of the hill - this is the great good place, and I figured I would leave when I was carried down the stairs by attendants in white coats who put me in a vehicle that didn't need sirens for the trip. But there are times I walk up the stairs when I get home and I think about how close we are to having the house's population diminished by one, and it feels a bit distant and reserved, like a servant who's heard the bad news but it's not his place to say. But that's when I see Scout the Dog at the back stairs, because he's heard me coming up and he knows this means he can go out, and the house is alive again. Not a museum, but a container for an endless procession of Todays.
"It's what happens," she said. "Time passes, things change."
"O to have no knowledge of such things, yet speak with such assurance," I said.
The element that makes this all different from my own experience: it's generally fun around here. It's lively and interesting and honest, for the most part. She doesn't have to leave in order to be the person she wants to be. I hope that matters. Two: she has inherited something of my sentimentalism, but it's not enough to smother and hobble. Wife was cleaning out her home office the other day, as part of our big spring cleaning, and unearthed an old white plastic Mac iBook. It was Daughter's computer when she was very young. I powered it up and we looked at some old games - Care Bears, Barbie. She remembered them and was delighted to see them, amused at her background pictures, disappointed when old ones wouldn't load. (Maisy, gone for ever, now that Classic is no longer supported.) Enough time has passed that I no longer get a big porcupine heart when I see these things, and I'm just happy to see that she remembers and finds delight. That, in the end, is what you want. But there are also times when you're walking along the same place, walking up the same stairs, calculating the pace of the inevitable, and you think, well, I'm basically done, and it's just all pretend from here on.
The worst thing about your worst thoughts is how they couldn't care less whether you think they're true or not. Think what you like, pal; give me a call when you figure it out.
Everyone follows around the man who has VIGOR
If ACTUAL GLAND MATERIALS doesn't put the wowzer in your dowser, what will? Three bucks wasn't hay back then, but you could send in two dollars if that's all you wanted to spend. But what happened when you ran out? Where would the women go the when you no longer possessed actual gland materials?
Bonus: I CHALLENGE YOU to figure out what the hell I'm saying:
I hold praising letters from scientist! One page explains everything. Money refunded. Write to A Honigman. Or any Honigman.
Middle America, right here. "The largest city in northwestern Kansas, it is the economic and cultural center of the region." It's a college down, and has a population of 20.5K. I think I chose this because it's mentioned now and then in Gunsmoke.
One could do nothing but small-town churches, all of which fall within a few narrow architectural styles. Your basic rusticated stone, indistinguishable from pressed-tin prefabs:
Here's why I chose this city:
That's a frame from the movie discussed on Monday, "The Intruder."
The sign on the left is almost unreadable . . .
Until you look at the brick above the front door.
On the second floor it says "W. O. Bryant 1918." The adjacent structure has a stone embed that say "H.T. Bryant." Rivals? Brothers? Both?
Your knowledge of Americana can be tested by your ability to recognize in half second the name and color of the sign below:
And what better to go with a start metal modern facade than Cooper Black typeface from the 20s.
The big building - three proud stories - appears to have its details shorn. It's all blinded now:
Office? Lodge? Elks? IOOF? Don't know.
Down the street to the throbbing nexus of the commercial district:
Better than nothing, I guess - but between the shingled overhang (which stretches the entire length of downtown; one of those urban renewal plans to bring the folks back to the city's core) and the lack of signage, it's bland and unremarkable.
More of the same on the other side:
Yes, that's much preferable to a streetscape with signs that light up at night. SO very much better. A vast, impressive improvement.
The corner Rexall et al:
New facade; makes the old windows looked as if they're trapped in an aquarium:
It's rather creepy. The new windows should line up with the ones beneath. They don't.
The camera prowls through downtown, turns left, and we see . . .
There's no edit, so I'm 100% sure this is the scene today.
I suspect "fire." It's unrecognizable now:
But there are survivors, as you'll see.
An old department store - a 30s or 40s renovation updated an early 20th century commercial building. It looks like it's standing apart now, but in its time it was in the heart of downtown.
Cinema Treasures: "Opened as the American Theater prior to 1926. In 1948 it became the McCutchen Theater."
Local history site:
There was a flurry of excitement in Charleston in 2007 when a couple of guys from California blew into town with big plans to open a restaurant, revitalize the old Russell Hotel, put in an ice cream shop and bring back the original night club in the basement of the hotel. They were also going to restore the McCutchen Theater to it original glory and show movies from the 1930s to the 1960s.