We all look back on what we've accomplished, what we meant to do but didn't, and what we did but shouldn't have. With my sense of humor and belief in the good in everyone, I'll post the successes and failures I've experienced during my 75 years.
Postings will be on Tuesdays and Fridays with occasional meanderings when the mood allows.
Ship of Dreams was written shortly after my mother passed in 1996.
SHIP OF DREAMS
I have come home to my father’s house for the last time. My sisters and I are here to lay my mother to rest. She followed my father several years after his passing, dying on their wedding anniversary. There is a sense of regret that I did not have a chance to say goodbye to either of them. As with my father, Mother was cremated. Ashes seem such a poor representation of a person’s essence.
This is also my final visit to the house that has been my companion for many years. My grandparents owned the house until their deaths when it passed to my father. We moved to the house when I was fifteen, but I remember the many trips from North Carolina to Alabama where I spent every summer with my grandparents. My travels began when I was seven. Mom and Dad would put me on a bus seated behind the driver, who promised to watch me during the ten-hour trip. It was a great adventure.
As I walk into the house, whispers of past events and motion picture memories overcome me. The front hall, now devoid of its countless books, is covered with dust. The shelves are a silent testament to lifetimes of preachers, teachers, and philosophers. Going into my mother’s room brings instant tears. It is empty now, but I can still see her lying on the long, yellow couch, frail and angry that she should be so. Without her presence, the room, the house, seems lonely and forgotten.
There is a palatable sense of loss in three generations of joy, sorrow, everyday events, and whispers in the dark. I am surrounded by sounds of children running through the hall, music from the upright piano in the living room, births and deaths and the old ones who died when their time came. Mementos are gathered--books, an afghan I made for Mom years ago, and other small bibelots. Only unwanted items remain when it is time to leave. The house seems to be saying, “Don’t go. Stay a while longer.”
My siblings and I gather on the front porch, and our sister of the heart and a dear cousin are with us. Comfortable rockers, worn by many sitters, hold us close. Ashtrays and plant stands are friendly reminders of the countless evenings spent with family and friends and the shared camaraderie. We remember evenings sitting silently in the darkness, watching spiders spin their webs. Friends from across the street bring wine, and we sing, talk, laugh, and cry far into the night.
Time passes, leaving bittersweet memories. The house will always be a part of me, of my soul. All that I have loved resided here at one time or another. It was a safe harbor for a ship of dreams.
A safe harbor? A ship of dreams? Yes, but I, the house, am also a keeper of secrets held close in love. My walls have felt and absorbed your emotions and your dreams. You have meant so much to me, all of you. Your goodbyes touched my heart. Yes, a house can have a heart. Built of wood, brick, and mortar, it comes to life when a family moves in with all its hopes and human frailties. Sometimes, the house weeps, sometimes it rejoices, but it always revels in the human condition.
How can I respond to so many souls? Several generations of your family have lived within me--the earliest during the depression, raising their children in a simpler time, and the second, wildly passionate, finding humor and wonder in their children, watching them grow in the same passionate manner.
A life cut short, that of your sister, was the most sorrowful event in all my years with you. A beautiful child, she was torn from her family by a drunk driver trying to scare a little child by the side of the road. I can still see each of you in your pain and grief, trying to comfort each other. Your memories will remain with me forever--your mother who covered her child’s body so the younger sisters could not see her, the father running down the middle of the road toward his injured child, and the oldest daughter, in the days to follow, finding herself giving comfort, tapping into an inner strength she did not know she possessed.
I remember fondly the mornings with you girls and any visiting friends piled on your mother’s bed with cups full, brimming over with coffee and laced with the previous night’s conversations. Also remembered are your parents, sometimes driven by their own private hells, but always seeing their children as precious and unique. They were willing to sacrifice everything for you. Those sacrifices, given freely in love, negated any failings.
There were the happy times, the simple enjoyment of a family being together--poker games until the wee hours, discussions that covered everything, celebrations with neighbors that centered on scintillating conversation, and music--the father and oldest daughter providing the entertainment with their glorious voices.
And the funny things you did. One in particular comes to mind. Barbara, the oldest, ever seeking to shock, but always looking for approval, brought home several albums by Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts. The name of the group was kept from your father. Your mother shuddered, but to her credit, listened with an open mind to the crude jokes and sexual innuendos. She stood it as long as she could, and one night, after several drinks, showed her true feelings by sailing one of the records out the front door and into the bushes.
I will always love each of you. I wept silently as you walked through my rooms for the last time. I knew why you had to leave and watched your departure with a breaking heart. Your sorrow was mine, and if I had wings, I would have carried you back to happier times. You will always be the ideal by which all others are measured. Never again will I experience that pure joy in your lives, the love as I hold you close to myself.
Barbara, you called me a safe harbor for a ship of dreams. I say to you, “You have sailed your course, poorly at times, but always with a faith that has sustained you. I love you past caring and will hold forever, the vision of a tall, proud ship on its quest.”