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Taking Possession

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Taking Possession

The house-sitting for my friend Bill's family came to a close at the end of a sodden January. I asked my friend and fellow trail builder Angus to join me in renting the house I had been watching over for the past several months. During the time I had been house-sitting at Bill's grandmother's house, I had created a little space for myself among her modest lifetime's accumulation of mementos and furnishings. But I had become fond of the heavy Chinese candle sticks that had been battered by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, and the old pictures on the walls. I loved the heavy, dark-framed mirror that hung crookedly over the mantle and the boxes of brightly colored matches hidden under matchbook covers bearing the names of several decades of dining out. I felt comforted by the smell of musty age hanging in the air that reminded me of my own grandmother's house in Indiana.

In the last days of January, Bill's mother came to remove Grammy's mementos and furnishings, the candle sticks and mirrors, and the ancient drinking glasses and the old clothes in the closet. When we were done moving the accumulation, Angus and I opened the drapes to let in the sunlight. We cleaned away years of dust that had been hiding under the threadbare carpets and clinging to the walls. And when we had finished cleaning and the smell of the cleansers had faded away, I was no longer living in Grammy's familiar old house with its familiar and musty old smells, but in my own house for the first time, a house awaiting my own accumulations that had languished in boxes, waiting for the moment when I could occupy a space larger than a single small bedroom. In this strangely unfamiliar place, I began hanging paintings, filling cupboards and closets, and placing my treasures upon the mantle. And after the house was full of my own memories, I discovered I could only half-remember the house as it once was.

Spilt Ink logo by Brian Kunde. Used by permission.

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Last modified, Jan. 22, 2001