Impressions from the Land of Vanished Beautiful Things
By Stephen Mead
As I type the words Living Room that occasionally perverse, peculiar voice from a darkly comic, mad quadrant of my brain asks: “Yes, well what about other rooms? Aren’t they for living too, and what would be the opposite?” Come into the Dying Room, dear, you’re looking a bit a peaked. See these nice shiny vials of embalming fluid? Just relax and we’ll fix you right up in a jiff.
There were several entrances to the living room of the farmhouse I grew up in, all but one being offshoots from other living quarters, and one in particular which had the capacity for a allowing a person the semblance of a grand entrance. This was the large space from the dining room which had two recessed sliding wood doors that I never saw opened the entire time I lived on the farm. These were kept hidden by a horizontal pole running along the top, used mainly for clothes on hangers (either hung there for drying or waiting to be put on for “dress-up” occasions), the pole itself bolting the doors in place with tarnished black screwed in metal clasps. During the times we asked my mom if we could take out said clasps to at least see these intriguing doors she would respond, “Hell, no. They are dirty and full of dust. You’d have an allergic reaction. Don’t even think about it.” Thus these doors, that had the imagined potential of sliding back with dramatic gossamer magic, as if for the Loretta Young show, remained mysterious with their central gold plated slots where you could push a button and, presto, pewter handles would pop out. “Quit playing with that!”, was the accompanying admonishment mom’s preyed-on-nerves would spout as if by rote whenever we did this. Actually, even without access to the doors, there were a few times I can recall when my siblings and I put up sheets on this dining entrance pole and thus had makeshift stage curtains for brief plays and musicals we’d improvise. (What can I say? We didn’t live in the suburbs and had to come up with some means of fending off the delirium borne of boredom during shut-in days of inclement weather.)
Now that I’ve started to write about it I see that trying to describe the living room is like trying to describe a water color painting in process. Memories and emotions overlap transparently while nevertheless creating layers, this way, that, which shifts the substance of the views welling and disappearing first over here, then, over there. In order to frame the canvas so-to-speak, a person has to find a way to ground the surface plane, center it, and then see what details are strummed forth. Continue reading