Friday, November 13, 2015

Room without Walls

I’m talking about our bedroom. Well yes, there must be 
something holding up the ceiling but I can hardly find it. 51 pictures paper the partitions. I just counted them. We have five bold Polish movie posters, 25 photos from trips, a few art posters, a batik and the rest are family photographs. Add to this 14 book cases and the walls are gone….but closing in.

I pity the landlord when the time comes to move. He will 
need a ton of spackle and a dozen coats of industrial strength paint to restore the wall to its virgin state. If a tsunami should ever reach us we can float away on the raft of ancestors and offspring.

Albums of our travels transport me from the standing 
stones of Salisbury to Gaudi’s fevered mosaics, from the canals of Bruges to Alaskan glaciers. Any one is a window to a charged destination.  

Here is picture of my brother, Arthur, and me, circa age 
three. I can’t quite find my face in this shot. Then again I’m not at all sure I would recognize myself today if I met me in a telephone booth. My brother was an only child for four years. I can see some sadness around his eyes. He’s trying hard to be obedient. Around my 30th birthday I became an only child. The cause of his death was the weight of heavy and great expectations. He drove into a mountain wall perhaps looking for a seam. The car couldn’t handle the turns at that speed and blood alcohol.

Below that picture is one of my father and mother. He would become Spencer Tracy to me but she could never be Kathryn Hepburn; more like the elderly Shelley Winters. They tried to be perfect parents. What they offered worked for me but not for Arthur.

My daughters-three also keep me company at various ages wearing well whatever damage I caused them. The problem with parenting is that we are groping our way along at the same time our children are. In fact the journey never stops but they have forgiven me my stumbles. Many lifetimes chronicle this room I wake into every morning.

And there are ghosts as well for Peggy whose daughter’s allotted time was cruelly shortened by cancer. Unsaid words still hang in the air. My step-son and his wife along with Peggy’s parents she hardly knew fill another wall that isn’t there. I almost forgot our unforgettable grandchildren whose smiling faces illuminate the dawn’s early light.

There are voices in discourse bouncing off the shelves. The bookcase contains volumes which survived the last attempt of winnowing. How can we part with our William Trevor collection or Virginia Woolf or Eudora Welty? Then there are the journals of Camus and G. Manley Hopkins, letters of Keats and Faulkner, correspondences, diaries, memoirs. In front of the books are sentinels of ceramic pieces, wind-ups toys, fossils, very special greeting cards and assorted objet d’art.

The pillow is a repository of my dreams. When I’m not late for trains and planes or searching for my parked car I find myself having super idyllic dreams. Last night I was walking in amaze through rolling fields near Dodger Stadium at Elysian Park. The stretch of greenery was terraced leading down to the Pacific. This was one of many such, all of them in verdant settings I’m reluctant to leave.

This room is a sanctuary. A somewhat cluttered space with scrupulously half-read New York Review of Books and a stationary bike I have pedaled from Patagonia to the Punjab. In the waking-up time poems and prose are sprung, half-in half-out of my mind. With Peggy at my side supplying needed oxygen I wouldn’t change a thing.

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