Those Old Rooms

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The article about an old family porch caught my eye on a sultry summer’s evening and enveloped me in a haze of nostalgia. Everything the writer said hit nerve ends and stirred memories.

I think that we all have a special place in our memory for some special place, and that the memory is so vivid that we can feel the very floorboards under your feet. One friend told me that for her it was the basement workshop where her father stored his tools and where she used to sit, hour after hour, watching and talking. “The tools had their own scent,” she said, “and if I think about it, I can smell them now.” Another remembered her grandmother’s kitchen and the taste of the old fashioned pickles Grandma used to make.

For me, there are three rooms, each in a different house. There is my aunt Juliette’s front room where I spent many happy summer afternoons shifting through boxes of her embroidery patterns and investigating her glistening skeins of silk. The room had doors open to the garden and bamboo shades that sighed and shifted with the wind, so that I could sit bathed in dappled sunlight and in the spicy scent of geraniums that grew by the wall. Sometimes we chose patterns and ironed them onto fabric to make cushions or table runners. Othertimes, we simply sat and talked, or listened to birdsong and the rustle of the bamboo shades.

Now I remember

            Sunshine of long summers past

            That I spent with you.

The second of ‘my’ rooms is my Uncle Harry’s dining room. If I close my eyes now I can walk those smooth stones that made a path to the stairs, climb them and push open the door. It is winter and cold outside, and the warmth of the pot-bellied stove in the entryway makes my cheeks tingle. There is a scent of paper white narcissi in pots that Aunt Francine has forced, and the rustle of a book that Harry is reading, and the chink of china from the long wooden table set for tea that calls out “Welcome, welcome, stay and be happy.”

And so I lingered

            And the bleak, winter’s morning

            Became beautiful.

My parent’s house was so familiar while I was growing up that I mever thought of a favorite among the many rooms. It was only when I returned ‘home’ after I had been married and away for many years that I realized where I had spent so much of my time. Now, remembering, I relive that homecoming: how I open the front door, step into the cool hall with its silken screen and arrangement of flowers, then climb the stairs to what used to be my own room. And there it is, untouched by years. I walk through the bedroom to the connecting sun room and see my old desk, my ancient typewriter, the birdcage that holds Dickie, the old lovebird and his mate. My books are still there, and a pile of manuscripts labored over when I was growing up, and poems, and diaries, and packets of letters—all written and read and treasured so earnestly in this small, sunny space. When I look out of the windows, I see the emerald stretch of gardens below, and my mother’s arched trellis with flowers that change with the seasons—wisteria in springtime, and vines of flaming orange flowers in summer. In the near distance glows the blue curve of Osaka Bay.

These rooms are all gone, now, but in my mind they are whole and full of life, and  I can always open doors to a past that will endure as long as memory, and which are as precious as love.

Was it yesterday

            That looking from this window

            I saw flowers bloom?

“Spring”

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About Maureen C. Wartski

I’m Maureen Wartski, writer, artist, wife, mother, grandmother; you can see that I have many of the bases covered. I was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, we would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver. I’m told that my first words were, “Big moon!” All my life I have felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create has grown through the years. I suppose, then, that it’s a natural thing that this blog be full of the things that so many of you enjoy doing…drawing, making something with fabric, and writing. Yuri's Brush with Magic, my newest book for middle schoolers follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world. I'd love to hear from you! You can send me a note at: maureen@wartski.org/ My blog is here: https://maureenwartski.wordpress.com/ Or friend me on Facebook!

10 responses »

  1. Maureeen,
    Thanks for sharing the “Spring” of your life and its memories. Beautiful. You described everything so well that at first I actually thought your bedroom was still set up like you left it. You know how to set a mood and pull your readers in!

  2. What a great exercise this is for writers who may be having trouble describing a setting in their books, too, Maureen. If we as writers sit down and write a description of a place we know and love, we are reminded of all the important things to include in descriptions in our books as well — the squeeks of the floor boards, the smells of mown grass or baking cookies, the soft fuzz of an afgan beneath our hands as we run our hand along the top of the couch… This is a great sort of exercise for writers. Thanks for sharing YOUR memories as an example.

  3. Oh, yes, the rooms or plants or birds might be gone, but you can meander through these rooms in your memory. As Janelle mentions, doing this as an exercise really sharpens those details. I have come away with oodles of shorts based on remembering the scent of jasmine, the river rocks I collected, etc.

    • Memory is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? A time-traveler, a keeper of treasures and secrets, each one a small gem. But memory has its sadness, too, for we are only onlookers, watching, recording.

  4. Thank you, Janelle, for your insightful words. I think there are really about 7 ways to show character, and place (with or without the character in it) is one example. I am reminded of Llewellen’s *How Green Is My Valley* in which he not only shows his green valley but invites the reader to walk in it also…

  5. Maureen, In addition to entering your own world of complex and detailed memories, you help us, your readers and friends, to connect with the world you lived in before we met you and your artistic work. We share your vignettes based on exquisite memories that have shaped your creative spirit in so many nuanced ways. What a blessing to have at your memory tips and finger tips all of the bits and pieces that make up the wonderful “you” that is Maureen.

    • You’re always too good to me, Fran… thank you for undeserved praise. But don’t you think that as we grow older our memories become stronger? True, this observation: the young have anticipation, the old have memories.

      • Maureen, you deserve every bit of praise I bestow upon you. As we age, some of those old memories become more intense and significant. Would that recent memories would stay with us so well.

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