I’m wandering around my grandparents’ house. It’s nearly 4 o’clock in the morning and yet, with as late an hour as it is, and with as early as I ought to be up in the morning, something overcomes me-
I can’t quite place it.
It’s not nostalgia, not quite. It’s not sadness, for as bare as some of these walls have become, they’re bare with purpose grander than that of the need to keep up appearances or the desperate desire to be set in old ways.
It’s just.. Strange.
It’s always strange.
I’m wandering these old rooms- rooms I played in as a child, rooms we celebrated Christmases and held family reunions in over summers long since past.
Mom hands me an earring. We study it for a moment, together, before placing it back on the little piano that still stands in the living room.
"Makes me sad," she says, thinly, as I examine the olive drab carpet in hopes of finding its mate. It doesn’t seem altogether odd that anyone would have misplaced such a thing, especially in the commotion and to-do of the past couple days and yet, somehow, I understand what she means when she says it’s eerie.
It’s not quite the word I’m looking for, but it does capture a certain essential quality of whatever it is I’m feeling at the moment.
She heads upstairs to try and cycle down enough to glean a little sleep from the few hours left in the night as I drift downstairs into the basement. This room is largely unchanged now, though when we got here, however many weeks ago, it was the only one that seemed to feel different. This used to be something of an activity room, or a “rumpus room,” as they’d say in the old days, but minor physical alterations aside, the biggest difference seemed (to me, at least) to be the lingering impression that no one had really been down here in quite some time, save for the occasional trip to the freezer to grab a tv dinner or to put another load in the tumble dryer.
I’ve spent many nights down here over the course of this trip, writing papers and playing pool against myself, poring over my guitar and trying to come up with anything that resembles an actual song. The old sign my mom made for my sister and I to commemorate the “D & J Pool Hall” is still down here, perched atop an old, wicker chair and I’ve done my best not to dislodge it from behind the orange cushion.
There are various old trinkets down here- memories of days gone by, of holidays and trips around the world, various bottles of fine, aged spirits and unopened packages of Kool Milds, trophies, trinkets, old plush toys, VHS tapes, and photographs collecting dust.. I lean in close to read the signature on an old, cartoon rendition of my grandfather in his workshop - it’s dated the year I was born.
It’s odd wandering around these rooms now that so many of them are so bare- not empty, but certainly moreso than they were only a few days prior. The old, wood paneling.. The vacant hooks along the walls..
I’m all of a sudden reminded of the earring and it strikes me that perhaps that’s what I find so jarring - the little signs of life that linger in the breath between the walls of rooms relieved of their furnishings. The silence of an empty house is different than the silence of a house with people living in it. Add to that the heavy burden of reason- not the fact that the earring was lost, but why it was lost, why so many of the furniture pieces have moved, why the beds are empty, and despite any of the hard-won and ardent victories, I’m left with this:
I hate to see the cracks in people. Family, friends, loved ones.. The little glimpses you gain into the struggle of others. You do what you can to help, but lately I’m left with a lot of this feeling - wandering around a half-empty house, listening to the walls and wondering how it came to this.
It probably sounds more dramatic than it is, but here, in this moment, that’s been my summer- seeing people’s cracks and trying as best I can to help them patch ‘em up.
Sad in some ways, eerie in others, with moments of joy mixed in, and a heavy dose of nostalgia, but ultimately, at the end of it all… Just strange.
Or at least until I find a better word..
They’re never quite there when I need ‘em…