My Almost Famous House

No. 9 dressed for fallA text arrived from my next-door neighbor saying that a “location manager” had just spoken to her about using both her house and ours as the setting for a major motion picture. Could he ring our doorbell too in a bit?

“Sure,” I said, and 20 minutes later he was here.

This wouldn’t be the first time a film crew had chosen our house. Fifteen years ago, a public utility made a commercial here using just the outside. Then, five years after that, some college kids used the inside too, to make a movie that affixed so many wires and cable to our newly painted trim that we had cause to muse on the futility of any and all home-improvement projects.

“Oh, but this is the big time!” said the man, and that sounded true enough to me when I heard the names of two of the actors who have already signed to the project. “When we leave, you won’t know we were here at all.”

“Even with that crew of 80 you mentioned?” I asked. 

“Even with that crew of 80,” he said. All we had to do was (a) agree to be relocated for “seven weeks give or take”, (b) allow all our furniture be relocated too, and (c) give permission for the walls be repainted and the wallpaper be covered with other, temporary, paper as the film’s visionaries saw fit.

But! All would be restored when the project was complete. AND, besides covering our housing costs, we would be compensated for our trouble with a fee to be mutually agreed upon.

He took scads of pictures, talked more to my husband David, newly returned from the office, and left, with the understanding that he would come back in a week with six even bigger bigshots.

When, that evening, I told my cousin about this potential offer, her reaction was swift. “WHY though? Why would you do this at all?” It was a good question.

Over the next few days I began to see that I would say yes to the project mostly to see if we still had wings, as well as roots. Were we still capable of signing up for such radically new “dance suggestions” from the universe?

Because we have been here one very long time: Little House on the Prairie was still airing fresh episodes when we got here. For almost four decades, I have watched the morning sun touch the tops of the tall oak trees across the street.

David, who is equanimity itself, thought it might be an adventure, but I happen to know that he can be happy anywhere as long as he has his books and the daily crossword.

I am not like that.

I got worried about my houseplants, all still at ‘summer camp’ on the screened-in porch? Where would they go, some storage facility in South Boston? And could I actually live in a hotel, even for those seven weeks ‘give or take’?

As promised, the man came back with the bigshots, who spoke not a word but slithered like eels, all silent, around our rooms. As they left, our man thanked us and said he would call in a week with the decision.

And when he did call, it was to say that they had decided to go with an another house in another town.

Was there disappointment around here? 

Not for my houseplants. Not for the two rooms we freshly repainted just last month. 

I walked outside to where I could see those trees that greet me each morning and felt a slow smile cross my face. Because how lucky a thing is it to go from youth to age looking out at the same window at the tops of the same stately familiar trees, not just those oaks across the street, but this ginkgo and her graceful final shedding.

Wasted It

We recently had a day so lovely it took my breath away when I opened my eyes to it at dawn. The stand of trees across the street made me think God had taken up needlework, so bright were their colors. They looked like crewelwork where the thread is thick and the patches of color really sit down and stay a while.

“Let me be a kid child again in endless days!” was all I could think throwing back the covers and hurrying to the bedroom window. “Oh, Time let me play and be golden in the mercy of your means! ” was all I could think, recalling that wonderful line from “Fern Hill” by Dylan Thomas.

But I didn’t do that. I didn’t play and be golden on that matchless day, because….

I had errands.

Errands: the curse of all adults at the stage of life some call Maintenance of the World.

I sometimes ask myself what I used  to do with all the hours I now spend bringing stuff to the cleaners. I try to wash by hand to save the trip  but it doesn’t always work. I wore a brand-new shirt Thursday that said to Machine-Wash- Cold-Delicate-Cycle-Line-Dry and I heeded all those instructions except maybe the delicate cycle part and alas, when I drew it from the fragrant tangle of its freshly shampooed brethren it was half its former size, darn it all. My dog would look good in it if I had a dog.

So there was the dry-cleaning – and I did bring things to the dry cleaners, including my winter coat which turned out to have a nice piece of dark chocolate still in the right-hand pocket.

Then there’ was refueling the car with ever-more-costly gas. I did that.

Then I drove to my son’s new apartment and took the base of his great-grandmother’s old dining room table off the back porch where he’d left it for me. In some lapse of sanity the day before I had decided I would refinish it for him over the weekend.

It’s a little jaunt over to his place and back  but it was early still when I got done and the light still billowed and bounced. The light felt to me like this big soap bubble that had alighted here on earth and somehow taken us inside it. A great iridescent bubble, like this.

But I wasn’t really inside the bubble because really I was inside my car.

Then inside the food store.

Then the bank.

Then another food store.

I wanted to go to the cemetery where lie some people dear to me. That would be the one time of the day when I did get outside in the air for more than ten minutes.

The sun was lowering in the sky by then. It was after 5:00.

A funeral bouquet on a grave looked like more needlework , Natures’ work aided by man’s.

I got down on the grass; lay right down next to the grave that is freshest for me and looked up.

If the one who lay beneath me could still talk and if he could see me wasting a bright bubble of a day like this one, I know he would have some tart advice for me about slowing down and looking up more.

I looked up just as the light was failing and saw this, a view that managed to make up for all that day’s wasted opportunities.

And now if you have the time, the Welsh poet’s c as read by Anthony Hopkins: