Monday, 7 August 2017

Not for you, for me.

In the heat of the summer I can remember the cafe curtains on the kitchen windows looking out on the prickly grass, the pansies and the house further down the road. I remember the steps coming up the porch: one, two, three, then through the screen door, the wooden door (never, ever locked) and then down the hall, root cellar on the right, dark and clammy, with a door to the cellar itself and a window in the wall with no screen for hanging laundry out on the line, straight from the wringer-washer you just passed. On your left going into the kitchen is the telephone on the wall, the pull-chains for the furnace, and then the stove. Wood fuel. One side a huge log-eating mouth, the other an over for baking. Burners on top. If you went left past it you went into the dining room. A piano sat against the wall, a big round table filled the room. A wall of windows looking out onto the side yard and the post office next door was the dinner view. If you turned right from the stove you went into the kitchen proper. A fridge, pantry, cupboards and an always-full of water dishpan in the sink. Everything black, white, yellow and silver. We played cribbage and penny at the table here. The table was formica and chrome.

Straight ahead through the kitchen and you were in the living room. Keep going straight and you'd walk out the front door that nobody used, across the highway and into the river. If you went slightly right you'd be invited to sit and do some embroidery. I did thousands of stitches. Bailey? Not a single one ever. To the left the staircase. Up we go. We slid down it for years. I sat on the second-last step to have my braids done. Bailey's hair never got long enough for braids. Mine never got short enough not to spend upwards of an hour having my head tugged back and forth. French braids every day.

At the top of the steps is the tiny blue bathroom with the big bathtub with the window overlooking the apple tree and the had towels stacked in a pile that hurt to use. They were so rough. Line dried every day. The bathroom smelled like powder.

Then straight ahead. On the left, my grandparent's bedroom. I've never been in there but the walls were red. Then at the end of the first turn, my mother's bedroom. It meant nothing to her though, her house burned down when she left for college at eighteen, this is the house they bought afterward. None of this stuff is hers.

Make a right and keep going down the hall. On the left is Bailey's room. It's pale pink. All vintage poodles and very fifties ice-cream parlour style in decor. It's full of stuffed animals and doll clothes and hair accessories and white vinyl furniture. It makes no sense in this house. She loves it. Bailey was born a teenager though.

The next room on the right is mine. It's the smallest. The coziest. The walls are yellow. The big bed is painted brown with a buttery yellow comforter and there is a big bookshelf full of books to read next to a big overstuffed easychair. The window next to the chair looks out over the barn. The barn swallows come and sit on the wire that goes to the barn and sing to me each evening and morning. Their song at night makes my chest hurt in homesickness because I miss Lochlan. In the morning it makes me happy because I count the days I pass until my time here is up and I can go home, having learned embroidery, cooking, gardening, blueberry-picking, card-playing but mostly gardening.

It's not so bad but I won't know that until decades later. I won't know that until I stand in my own garden, snap the ends off a green bean and eat it raw, between the rows.

I was paying attention. I didn't know it then. I do now.