Notes and Notices

On art, architecture and design

2/28/2017

A stay in my childhood house

Posted by Carren Jao Pineda |

I've been under the radar for quite some time. And part of that is because I've been away from the country. At the start of the new year, I found myself in an unexpected place.... among my decade-old things, from before I had even been married.

If you've ever returned to your childhood home, you would know the strange feelings it evokes. There is a sense of coming home, but also being a stranger in foreign territory. This is true especially when confronted with your childhood room. It is a room that has moved on despite you not being present. Some objects might still remain (if you're lucky), but subtle shifts in placement tell you that it's all been tinkered with even as you weren't looking.

I slept in my old room for about a month. After all that time, it still felt a little odd to walk around among my old things, catching ghosts of old memories in every corner. That, to me, is the power of place. Even as it changes, it still retains its mystical quality to bring you back in time.

I found this poem and I thought the poet, Eric Ormsby beautifully captured the feeling.


Childhood House
by Eric Ormsby


After our mother died, her house, our
childhood house, disclosed
all its deterioration to our eyes.
While living she had screened us from, or we hadn’t seen,
the termite-nibbled floorboards and the rotting beams;
the wounded stucco hidden by shrubbery; the frayed,
unpredictable writing and the clanking labor
of the hot-water line into the discolored
rub; the fixtures in the dining room
skewed and malfunctioning.
                                                          I remember thinking with a
swarm of confusion that this was the true state
of our childhood now: this house of dilapidated girders
eaten away at the base. Somehow I had assumed
that the past stood still, in perfected effigies of itself,
and that what we had once possessed remained our possession
forever, and that at least the past, our past, our child-
hood, waited, always available, at the touch of a nerve,
did not deteriorate like the untended house of an
aging mother, but stood in pristine perfection, as in
our remembrance. I see that this isn’t so, that
memory decays like the rest, is unstable in its essence,
flits, occludes, is variable, sidesteps, bleeds away, eludes
all recovery; worse, is not what it seemed once, alters
unfairly, is not the intact garden we remember but,
instead, speeds away from us backwards terrifically
until when we pause to touch that sun-remembered
wall, the stones are friable, crack and sift down,
and we could cry at the swiftness of that velocity
if our astonished eyes had time.

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