Tuesday, June 17, 2014

At the edge of autumn

June 28, 1980

I pass this house twice in my daily jog, once going up River Drive, again during my jog back to Passaic.
It was a small complex of blond-brick buildings surrounded by a low wall of matching brick. Regardless of the season, it always reminded me of autumn, most likely because of the line of red maples that were strung along the sidewalk on the River Drive side.
The main house had a dark doorway inset with a round window above it of stained glass like a church, making it different from all the houses along that road, making it feel almost sacred.
The stained glass, however, wasn’t the kind I saw in church as a kid. It wasn’t religious at all, but was a broken geometric pattern that looked a little like the points of a compass – and that compass always seemed to point north.
The small property contained several smaller buildings, a garage made of the same brick and another smaller residence along the side street modeled after the house, but not so grand.
I don’t know why, but each time I ran passed it, I felt its age, as if it had come out of the 18th Century, somehow managing to survive when other houses that might have once been constructed during that time had faded away to so-called progress. The red maples with their perpetually win colored leaves seemed to stand guard over the place, giving strength and at the same time emphasizing its age, and of its connection to the earth itself.
While I never saw anyone come or go, or even any car in the gravel drive that led up to the garage, I always imagined someone staring out, some old lady lingering behind the lace curtains, like some frightened ghost living out a past life inside a world she knows and loves, rarely if at all venturing out into the changing world in which the rest of us had to exist. I imagined her dressed in black with a veil covering her face, as if she was the widow of some great and once powerful land baron.
The iron gates in front of the driveway and the walk up to the front door only made the house seem more remote, as did the brick walk to the brick front stairs leading to the front door with nearly perpetually yellowed grass to either side (never overgrown, suggesting someone cut it, but did little else). This, too, seemed in contrast to the other houses along that stretch of road where the grass was green and sometimes overgrown during this time of year, and the trees laden with green leaves.
I kept thinking how that widow somehow managed to make time stop at the time of her husband’s death, and how the house and property clung to autumn for her sake, and that winter would only come when she finally passed away – she knowing the old house will not see another spring.

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