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
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?