In the Next Room

A few things. Just a few. Unwrap them from the cloth they are hidden in, look for a moment, take them from me, but give them back.

The cat is out of the bag. My sister and I have this retirement plan that no one seems to understand (though I know Ellen will, the whole 85/15 thing that I have never explained and shan’t). We have this plan to retire to a cottage on the coast in Scotland, just she and I. And we will read books and garden, we will take long walks. We will sleep well as it rains. Maybe I will find a church that does it right, i.e., high church. Maybe they will want an old retired deacon who claims Scottish blood.

O holy ghost of eternal discontent, help yourself to the helm, be an anchor when I let you in. O holy weight, o tremendous radiant doubt. Come blend in with something that I need til I can’t pick you out. 

Casey (who should read his own Facebook messages) asked me about the GRAND PLAN. He said, so you’re basically waiting for the kids to graduate and then you’ll leave? No. That isn’t what I promised on that infamous day in 2006. He said, can I come and visit you? I said, you could, but you’d be dead… so…. 

I said, haven’t you ever wanted a space of your own? Growing up in your house with all your brothers and your parents and people coming and going? Didn’t you ever want a place of your own? 

I’ve never had that, never had a place that was my own, unless you count my bedroom in the house we lived in in a small town called Conklin. There I had my own room and my mother was an expert at keeping the house cool. The whole house would open up at night, and my lace curtains (which I still have via some perverse hoarder need in  myself) would flutter in the breeze. And I’d think of the ghost the boys had told me about as we trespassed in the cornfield. I’d think of how he was probably sniffing me out, grinning in at me through the open window.

So yes, I feel that I would like to have my own place, just a small one, within my own life.

My own eternal discontent struck me hard today, in the form of a bench that smells like my grandmother inside. If you lift the lid, you can stick your head in (it’s all rather awkward) and you can smell my grandma. Because it was her bench, it lived in her living room and baked in the sun and bore the burden of uncles and then grandsons who only got larger. I cracked my toe today, hard enough to swear out loud and to feel tears prick my eyes at the tender hour of 6:48am.

Then I checked craigslist and padmapper and all the other sites, hoping there was something larger out there; after all, we haven’t signed a new lease just yet. And there wasn’t anything. If I’m going to pay $1400 a month I will have a much nicer house than some ranch in the neighboring town.

I’m coming down from my toe cracked, work insane rage at this point.

I changed the sheets on all the beds after work, sweated through my T shirt. Felt like my grandma when we would come to her house and she’d still be cleaning and in her house coat. The hairs at the base of my neck were wet, just like hers, forming wild spiral curls in protest.

I took a cold shower, put on my summer pajamas. And now a cooler bit of weather has rolled in and I have played my mother, running through the house, opening windows, pushing back curtains as the merciless sun is hidden behind the clouds and the cool air pushes in.

‘Cause every place I’ve ever lived in the same voices are talking from in the next room. It’s not so bad that I’d call it a habit just something I can’t stop wanting to do. 

I talked to my mom yesterday, all the way from the wilds of Yorkshire. We agreed that I should invite my grandpa, the same man who was married to the woman who compulsively cleaned until her housecoat was damp with exertion and her hair curled out of control, how I should invite him to come and pop his camper in my yard.

And it is a lovely idea.

I thought too, about my Erin and my Sara, and our house not far from where I am planted now. The strange things that occurred in that house which is planted in the oldest neighborhood, with it’s own strange history.

And, as I sat listening to the song I’ve been inserting, a song I’d never heard before my an artist I love, in a rare moment of quiet…. I thought of my grandpa sitting on my deck. He would prop his chair back and lean against the house. He would listen to the boat horns on the water and the waves on the shore, he would listen to the birds. He would not require anything of me. Only a resting place, a face that looks strangely similar to that of a woman he loves and is watching slip away from him by degrees; she is almost gone now. That woman he held passionately in the bed I sleep in, who sang the same hymns I sing while she did the dishes, who bore his children. Who made him whole again after the jungles of Iwo Jima.

I could see the cottage Amy and I will have, the way the mist would come in suddenly. The Sweet William, the roses, the delphiniums and peonies. I could see her stooped back and her large straw hat. I could feel the echoes of the lives we both lived, reverberating through our old bones, shining from our matching eyes.

Music is a powerful thing. I can feel the bass undertone of this song, it thunks me in the heart over and again. It brings powerful memories of lives not even yet lived.

And it tells me that I am my mother, my sister and my grandmother. Somehow, we are the same. An echo that keeps on. Women of service, women of opinion, women of nurturing love. Women who keep going. Do you see the tilt of her chin? For that is her, this woman who is matriarch to a clan of amazing women. Do you see the steel in her eyes? A wonderful woman, and soft all through, a women who never forgot to put pickles on the tables; but not a woman to trifle with.

I will keep going. Against all the forces that doubt me, that don’t believe or have never experienced a call of any kind. I will guard my children, I will guard my marriage, but I cannot guard my heart.

Every word is the joke that I’ve stolen, but I’ve committed and truly, it’s all in the delivery. 


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