Tuesday, April 10, 2012

`Just Such a Retrospect'

The former owners lived here twenty-four years and raised two children, two cats and a dog. They planted the azaleas and sego palms. They put in new gutters and built the fireplace. Like their house, now ours, they are solid. He is a retired mechanical engineer, and she a nurse. He’s a native of Irving, Texas, and remembers the day President Kennedy was shot in nearby Dallas. One kid in his school applauded the killing and another, a football player, knocked him out with a single punch. This week they drive to their new house in North Carolina.

For a few days, optimistically, one isn’t quite at home in a new house. It’s like wearing borrowed clothes. The tailoring of the longtime occupants remains. Our house is not palatial (a word I don’t think I’ve ever used before) but I’ve already gotten lost or briefly disoriented several times. The walls are smudgeless, the carpets pristine, awaiting my kids, and the air-duct filters are dust-free. I’ve mentally plotted the arrangement of bookshelves. Emily Dickinson describes a similar evolution:
“The Props assist the House
Until the House is built
And then the Props withdraw
And adequate, erect,
The House support itself
And cease to recollect
The Auger and the Carpenter —
Just such a retrospect
Hath the perfected Life —
A past of Plank and Nail
And slowness — then the Scaffolds drop
Affirming it a Soul.”

For now, our scaffolding remains in place.


Buce said...

Nice to know that you are properly settled, Patrick.

Fran Manushkin said...

What a great Dickinson poem too. Thanks!