Monday, October 12, 2015
Old Books, Old Memories, Fresh Paint
Haysoos, Maria and Josef!
I'm having the old homestead painted for the first time since we moved in nearly fourteen years ago. Those are only some of the books that I had to pull down from only some of the shelves. Oliver told me that I had too many, and Henry reached up for the ones on the tallest shelves and wondered if I'd read any of them lately. Probably not, I told him. But they are who I am. I could give a flying foo-foo about that Mondo Londo woman who tells you to get rid of everything unless you can say that it brings you joy. The little French paperbacks of Balzac and Sartre and Rimbaud brought me nothing but agita when I read them thirty years ago, but when I run my fingers down the yellow pages and bury my nose, I remember Dey Hall and how hot it was in the fall without air-conditioning, how insane Dr. Daniel, with his American South French accent, pounded on the table and shouted OUI, OUI, OUI, HELL OUI! if we answered a question correctly, and how hard Sarah and I laughed when we quizzed one another on idiomatic expressions -- all 350 of them -- useless then and now. Il n'y a pas un chat dans la rue! we'd repeat, over and over, downing our Tabs and Mello Yellos, Sarah's curls riotous and as disheveled as her backpack whose contents slipped out and left a trail wherever she walked. I read La Nausee while swinging on a hammock on the rickety porch of a house we called The Shanty where I lived with my friends Missy, Hilary and Julia during my junior year. I felt literally nauseous while I read, the first time the body met the mind and one recognized the other and the exhilarating freedom of being alive. I'd meet my boyfriend Luke under the trees whose arching boughs had convinced me to give up my spot at the University of Virginia -- I loved the UNC campus, not the UVA grounds, loved the brick of Dey Hall, not the formal colonial architecture of Jefferson -- and we'd lie there on the grass in the quad, reading Auden and Williams and Yeats, Li Po and Tu Fu. They are who I am.
Cast my memory back there Lord, sometimes I'm overcome.