Nov 28, 2008

It's Black Friday And All Through The House

Not a creature is stirring, not even an 80 pound Borzoi because she's napping on the couch.

Yeah, needs a little polishing.

My house is quiet. I've heard that said before from guests here. "Your house is so quiet!" I don't know if they mean quiet as in "there is no noise from outside" or quiet as in "I can't believe you have two dogs and six cats and your house isn't Bedlam under a full Moon" but regardless my house seems to be quiet. The way I like it. A reflection of the quiet I wish my spirit felt more often.

In the living room the heroine has just discovered for herself that the demonically smooth Vincent Price has used her friend's corpse to make a wax mannequin of Joan d'Arc. Behind her the shadows move, Price admits his evil plan and her own pure and unblemished body is about to be seized by Price's brutish assitant, at which she will start screaming for her pretty life. Outside the office windows a lovely scarlet-drenched cardinal is working his determined and hungry way through the pile of sunflower seeds I put out yesterday for them. Each black shell gives up it's tresure with a sharp 'crack,' unable to withstand the determined efforts of the little bird. On my one surviving computer speaker the Budapest Philharmonic is coasting easily through Respighi's Pines of Rome (thank you again, Stucco!) In the yard the rain that has been threatening all day arrives with a heavy grey sizzle.

I don't know how my house counts as quiet at times. Times like now, though, even with all the background noises it really is quiet. The wind is whispering through the windows, the clamour and calamity of Thanksgiving at my brother's house yesterday is a bygone thing already. Mrs. I is visiting her mother, having brought Penny to overnight while we travel to Fort Worth this weekend. My daughter is back at my brother's house, drinking deeply of her new cousins from Texas and Georgia; strange, heady new wine to her. Belle sleeps blissfully on the couch as Vincent Price plummets into his vat of boiling hot wax, and the Budapest Philharmonic segues easily into the second movement of the Resphigi.

We've had houseguests the last two nights. A cousin of mine from Austin and her fiancee, a genuinely nice guy; quiet and easy going. I'm surprised at how quickly I've come to accept him here, a stranger inside my castle gates. It doesn't happen often. It's good to see my cousin again, with whom my brother and I spent many long summer days playing and talking and growing up. In the school months we'd pen-pal back and forth, my brother and her, and her older sister and I. As the years went on the older sister took a different path and got lost and never came back.

Her daughter was there at the feast; a willow-thin girl with serious eyes, long blonde hair and her mother's features. She is an eerie phantasm sent to remind me of what has gone by the wayside, of the cousin with whom I was once so close that we wrote letters to each other almost daily. Now she is disappeared into nothingness along with the bundle of pencil-writ letters I saved for so many years. I hear whispered rumours that her father almost didn't let the child come, that her mother is going to make it to the dinner, that she isn't going to make it, that she is going to show up later. She never does, which might be for the best. I know I'd not recognise her, know that all the old paths we walked are long overgrown but her sister and I still connect easily, as though years didn't lie between this and our last meeting.

Hers is one of the few faces that stood out yesterday from the sea of people; strangers that are tied to me in many cases only by genetics. Names remembered and forgotten, little cousins suddenly weedy and tall, walking with girlfriends where only last year they stumbled with footballs and Frisbees. The sound of all those people talking, laughing, eating, washes back and forth across the yellowing grass of my brother's expanse of lawn and I sit back in the little wrought-iron patio chair with my camera on my lap, the cigar clenched in my teeth making a smoke screen to keep distance between me and the masses of faces.

She remarked the first morning how quiet the house was, how peaceful. I smiled softly and we chatted a little bit over the table. Part of me wanted to tell her that she could have this herself, all it took was a little determination to BE quiet, to let the stillness settle down upon her, but I didn't. She'll figure it out if she needs to. She'll find how to walk quietly through the rooms, how to move softly across the yard. How to sit very still in the huge brown leather chair, facing the big bay windows of the office to watch the cardinal crack seeds with his orange and skillful beak.


Gordo said...

Wow, I haven't seen House of Wax in forever. Must rent.

I wish I could convince my dear family to walk softly. Even the dog clumps around. That would be a good life lesson. I walk softly, but I only carry the big stick often enough to make people think about it. ;-)

Cardinals didn't exist in my neck of the woods until about 20 years ago. They're gorgeous birds and about the only one that I can recognize immediately from its call. How a bird that size can push out such a sound is beyond me. I love having the pair hang out in the back yard, too.

Todd said...

Now that my two younguns have both moved out onto their own pathways my house is actually rather quiet. The dog is old and labors just to get up. Most of the time it's too much effort so she just lays there. The cat is young and stealthy. A couple of times a day he will "spawn" and be the devil's own. That passes nearly as quickly as it arrives. He then searches for a willing lap for napping.

There is definitely something to be said for the stillness that comes after the children move on. I can look back fondly at the tumultuous times when I wish I just had a moment of quiet to gain control of my sanity. At times it seems all too sane now. A little insanity and noise wouldn't be half bad.

Great post!

Clowncar said...

You write movingly of your former relationship with the older sister, and how she "took a different path and got lost and never came back." Some of that in our family too. I'm glad you are able to connect with her daughter. Must feel strange. Lie having ghosts at the table.

Oh, and yeah, Gordo's right, I now feel a great urge to go rent House of Wax.

mickelodeon said...

Lovely post. You do have a way with words that makes writing seem so effortless and makes mine appear clunky and awkward.

Of course, many times it is.

Really and truly, this is wonderful.

Irrelephant said...

Gordo, you need to--that's one of the touchstone horror movies, something that everyone needs to see at least once every six months. *g*

And I agree--how ANY bird can make that much sound from so tiny a body is beyond me.

Thank you Todd! I still have my thirteen year old around here, but she's not noisy. Learned it from her dad, I guess, who learned it from HIS dad who learned it... *S*

CC, it coloured the whole time, but not badly. It did stir up a lot of memories of growing up, though, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially during times of thankfulness.

Thank you, Mix! And you know full well your writing isn't clunky. You have your own voice, uniquely yours. NOTHING to be ashamed of there, I promise you. This particular one, I don't know, I was deep in that thoughtful frame of mind that makes my writing take on that purplish, maudlin feeling. I promise you, it's not always there.

Maggie said...

Once again of course a beautiful post.

I love stillness and quiet. Perhaps because with small children I don't get that much of it. But some days, I like to sit on the couch and stare out the window at the world being the world. And the thoughts come flooding into my brain and I feel content. *sigh*

Nancy Dancehall said...