I walk through this assemblage of family faces staring back at me, these black & white photos, resembling me, resembling my Italian husband and lining the walls of a long hallway carpeted in grey. It is a carpet that I now appreciate for its ability to hide the light and dark daily soil of our lives. These faces staring back at me, pulling at the threads of my memory remind me of the echoes of a mass, long ago attended, when monsignor smudging my forehead with a black thumbprint said, “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”.
My pulling away from this house recalls for me the pulling away of a bandage covering a serious wound; the fine, thready fibers sticking to a wispy veil of translucent skin. It is a tedious painful process, but necessary. My children and grandchildren like the singular, woven filaments of gauze have already lifted from this house into a horizon that awaits their brilliant participation. The road before them is an unwinding spool of predictable and exciting adventures. Their chests are puffed with courage as they face and direct the un-spooling of their stories.
But my pulling away demands the willingness to leave behind the mementos of the stories made in this house. These stories that twist and turn upon themselves with equal parts of happiness and regret. To trust that all the things contained within these bricks and boards are not required to remember a love served freely. A happiness shared willingly.
My insecurity about this leaving is at times washed with sadness and anxiety. And I understand my friends who cling to foundations and stuff to avoid the prickly pain of letting go. The “stuff” relinquished to the universe: couches and chairs, figures and paintings, sculptures and photos are the selections in our galleries that establish the dialog of lives lived here in this place and time. They are a vivid and distinct momentary pattern of lives lived glowingly. They announce, this is who WE are.
In our home hangs a painting purchased at a tag sale. It’s a beautiful work in blues; a framed Dutch Watercolor keeping company with a long wooden dinner table. In the foreground is a demure young couple in traditional dress who appear to be courting. But the flaw (not easily identified), is that the couple only have 3 legs. No matter what angle or view you apply you just cannot find that fourth leg. Hilarious and lively dinner debates have been summoned attempting to locate that lost limb. And grandchildren to grandparents express passionate opinions regarding their theories about where it might be hiding.
A large serving of trepidation is now being served at our table and it prevents me from casting our home and our things out into the abyss. The potential loss of this painting is not what troubles me. It’s the possibility that this painting is a reminder of stories that characterize a family that lived, loved and laughed around a meal. And a fear that our family’s memories might be drowned by the depths of our inadequate memories.
*Your thoughts, comments and observations are encouraged. Follow me @patricialeapens.com