Our last place in London had a cellar kitchen with cold, cold floors. It was expensive to heat and there I discovered the joy of fleece-lined slippers. I would come in from a blustery, people-clogged walk home from the tube station and throw down my bag to announce, “I have been thinking about my slippers.” Many was the time I nearly left the house in them. It had been a running family joke. Until the other day.
We had spent the weekend in a time-warp. A family friend, in particular a good friend of my father’s, but who is our age, drove a truck containing the contents of my father’s office, furniture my grandfather made for my parents as a wedding gift, a truck of photographs, slides, computer, 300 computer applications on CDs, my dollhouse and, since a truck was being loaded, various other items, books, toys, stuff.
He arrived Friday afternoon. We spent the weekend unpacking. The girls learned about late 60s/early 70s fashions through the medium of Barbie and Dawn dolls and I rediscover it in an envelope labeled “Leary, grass, etc.,”—color transparencies of a young Andy Warhol along with the pictures of Timothy Leary in a blue turtleneck sweater and love beads, as I believe they were called, for a Life story on drug culture. My father had mentioned having been to The Factory, but I had never seen the pictures. The walls in the film are not silver foil but a brilliant field of enormous technicolor flowers.
Most of the things are familiar, but they are now old. Black and white photographs, of which there are many, fix things firmly in the absolute past. They do not give up their stories and to make sense of them is like a sheer wall to scale. This will happen over the weekends and months to follow. I do a kind of thing triage and try to maintain focus while up against such forces as the work of a lifetime, one’s own mortality, the waning hours of daylight.
We go to dog park. We go to a new restaurant in town, recommended by a colleague, only to find a queue. We drive the spooky dark streets of Old Town. We walk around the courthouse square looking for a place to have drink. It is the most out on the town we have been here, that sense of aimless nighttime ramble, no longer a feature of middle age, with its online reservations, killing time until our table is ready.
Long story short, but Homeland security and various other rules about renting (or not renting) a one-way car, mean that the only way our friend is going to be able to travel home is via bus. On Sunday afternoon we pile into the car and go downtown to the Greyhound station. I am busy with the dog when my daughter disolves in peals of laughter.
Those of you on our Christmas card list will see the picture our friend took of my husband and the girls on the molded plastic seats, with the ancient suitcase we have provided for our friend’s trip in the foreground. It is a black and white photo which fixes this moment in time, as mysteriously as the others. I am not in the picture. I have gone home to get him a carry-on bag. And my shoes.