I sit in the living room of the Three and a Half, my maternal grandpadres' house. The deep blue of twilight shoves the solid black, leaf-fringed trees to the foreground as I gaze through the window. Peeps and trills remind me I'm in the country while a police-procedural on the TV upstairs and the steady heartbeat of the clothes-dryer in the basement reassure me that this old farmhouse is sufficiently electrified for this city woman. My mom relaxes in the wing-backed chair beside mine, her feet resting on a cushioned ottoman, a new-t0-her author's book in her hand.
Everywhere I turn my eyes to evokes a sensory trip down memory lane, physical, auditory, olfactory that tells me of my family, my roots and the origins of my story-telling life.
On the window bench, beneath the oval, hand-tinted photograph of my sailor-suited, three-year old grandpa, he told me the first ghost story I ever heard. I can't stand at the kitchen sink without thinking of my aunt and I, the two little princesses in the dungeon, forced to do dishes in punishment for being so beautiful. There is a brass-rubbing of a knight from a church in the north of England that hangs in the hayloft. How many battles has he fought - and won or lost depending on my whims - in the hundreds of years since his death?
I shot a documentary of my Nana for my graduate school thesis. The baskets she wove - that helped me weave her life into a narrative - decorate the nooks and crannies that abound here. Dollars to donuts, if you look underneath one of these baskets, you'll find a note, a name, a date. A reference about who should inherit it or why she used that pattern, those materials. If you're not courageous enough to peek at the bottom, a swift glance into a basket's belly could lead you to magazine clippings about opera, stray woodworking tools, or a collection of string (because who knows when you'll need a little twine?). Whatever the treasure trove, it always becomes the jumping-off point for another day dream.
What if the short flight of brick stairs and its archway were a portal to another time and place? Do you think the kettle-pot in the stone fireplace was a witch's cauldron once? What were the names of the horses that were stabled in the dining room back in the day? Did any of them compete in the Kentucky Derby?
I cannot remember a time when this magical kingdom was not my intimate playground. I feel I know each secret and special space yet that there is still so much to discover, to create, to name, to claim, to love and cherish. I could go on and on and on. The chair Nana and her brother used as a nutcracker. The fridge of endless grandchildren. The barn of mouse turds, race cars, and art. The three-seater outhouse on the banks of the river. This story-well, this imagination emporium, never runs dry, never runs out of stock. It is an endless tap of creativity and I remain grateful for its place in the shaping of my life.
Do you have a story place? Or maybe a collection of them? Did your family collaborate in your childhood what-ifs or did you stumble across the borders of make-believe as an adult? Where or how is your creativity rejuvenated? What or who helps?
Come on, gimme a story about your stories. I promise you - I'm listening.