Monday, March 3, 2008

no, no, they can't take that away from me

There is no longer a house at 419 West 6th Street. In fact, there are no houses at all on the north side of West 6th Street. When I was in Elyria yesterday, a thick blanket of snow covered the now-empty lot where four houses and a 3-unit apartment building had until recently stood. I was surprised at how small a space those houses and their yards had occupied. That row of houses encompassed my whole world when I was a little girl.

It was sad, indeed, to see them all gone, but the white blanket of snow gave the area a clean, fresh look that it hadn't had for a very long time. And, really, even when the houses were still there, the world that I remember was long gone. I'm sure more than forty years have passed since the last time Granny Getz walked slowly down the street, returning from her trip downtown to have her scissors sharpened. Longer still since Mrs. Pusbach moved away, telling her neighbors sharply, "Timbuktu!" when they asked where she was going. No one was there who remembered when Mrs. Seymour came every day to care for Mr. Sotherden in his little house where he lived all alone.

The overgrown, empty lot next to our house became an apartment building in the early sixities, and I remember that my brothers and I watched the construction every day. I was especially fascinated by the bricklayers. I found their quick, precise placement of row upon row of bricks machine-like and hypnotic. I can see myself looking out our big kitchen window, with its sill low enough for a child to sit on, watching their steady progress. That building is gone now, too.

Most importantly, of course, my house is gone, and I am trying to make my peace with that. I tell myself that it was really a mercy killing - the old place had looked pretty bad for a long time. And, after all, it hasn't changed a bit where it really counts - in my memory. As Kurt Vonnegut said, "The big show is inside my head." Inside my head, I am still pedaling my tricycle right to where the sidewalk ends just past Mrs. Pusbach's house, endlessly pushing my baby brother up and down the street in his stroller on hot summer days, and receiving my first kiss on the front porch swing. (Yes, I really did.) Those are things that won't ever change, no matter what stands on that little strip of land on a dead-end street.


Jill said...

It's clear that this is a bittersweet thing for you. Don't let it get you down!

anne mancine said...

Thanks, Jill. I think I'm okay with it. I have been trying to prepare myself for some time, but the reality (and finality) of it all is kind of stunning.

tom said...

I think that writing about this is a beautiful way to work it out, and I'm sure that I'm not the only reader newly-curious about the fragments of stories attached to this reminiscence.