Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Grand Old Dream

People were asking for things and looked to me as the host. It had to have been thought of as a party since the only way this unexplainable collection of people was there and could have found the place was through invitation. I can't say what was being celebrated since many were asking about my fathers death and the whole thing was being held at great-uncle Elwood's still-unsold house. There were friends from all my schools, relatives, friends of my mother's, former neighbors from everywhere I lived and others whose connections to m were beguilingly vague.

Things got magically weird when I saw the kids were running around the outside of the house. I followed a bit, around to the back, to discover more garages and driveways leading to Uncle Elwood's house than I had remembered. The terracing was near-impossible. The tuck-under garages defied architecture. Once inside the garages, I found that they continued into a the basement and led to a series of rooms I had never seen before, although I had been in the house 100 times over the years.

I was stunned to discover the spaces. They were not impossible by their existence, merely improbable because (a) the house would have never been designed in such a way and (b) given the area they occupied, they must extend nearly to the neighbor's foundation.

The rooms ran the gamut of typical basement utility to overly ornate pantry and storage. Each was reclaimed space; there were after-the-fact solutions for lighting each area, various floor treatments and some elements of comfort that made me think my great uncle spent leisure time in each one. They were connected sometimes by a doorway, sometimes by a short flight of stairs. The rooms seemed laid out in some order, but you could not sketch a diagram of it no matter how recently you were there; like some hybrid of tunneling a mine and industrial asset resourcefulness.

I found the room he kept all his old guns. There was a space the had rows of garment bags hanging on chrome pipes. Other rooms had books and LP records. One had a sink, counters and some refrigerators. Although the latches had been removed (safety first) they were still plugged in and had snack food in them; in case, you know, an unexplainable party was about to break out.

In every room there were things I wanted to show others and many of those others were at the party somewhere. Each space begged for hours of exploration and reminiscence. Every one appeared as if Uncle Elwood was just in there tinkering and puttering yesterday.

How long, I wonder, will my mind be able to illustrate these recollections and restore this sense of wonder?

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