Sunday, February 21, 2016

The House that Moved

When I was a boy of some vague age a house was moved from one end of our street to the corner of the next. I say the house was moved, the house itself, not just the people in the house. Nor was this a small house. Rather, it was, to a boy of no particular age, a rather large house. No one had ever seen anything like this before, and for that reason, all the neighbors lined the parking strip one weekday morning to watch the house roll up the road to its new resting place.

How strange it seems, picturing the thing now, that I had essentially forgotten this uncommon event until this very moment, some five decades later. I suppose that a house lumbering up the street on wheels is a wonderful thing right up to the point when it  happens and is done with, and then becomes of no particular account, seeing that it can never be new again.

After the house was gone, a gaping hole was left, as if a molar had been removed from the dentition of the earth, and this became our playground for some weeks to come. It was no-mans land, a bombed out wasteland between the front lines, the stage on which invisible armies, plus boys, would clash through the hot summer days of July. It was a maze of caves, of hobbit hovels, of dragon lairs where brave swords sung. It was the dark and tossing hull of a galleon caught in the sea of impending doom, infected, moreover, with pirates who counted innocent life of no use compared to bars of gold and pieces of eight. It was both mountain and chasm, heaven and hell.

In fact, the half block had been sold to a firm that would construct an old folk’s home on the site. A convalescent home, my mother called it, but it seemed to us more a prison, an asylum, a morgue, where people went in the front door and you never saw them again and they never came out alive. I remember that once a woman escaped, and hobbled across the street to our front door, and told my mother that Nazi doctors had been holding her captive there.

But that was later, and a subject of other imaginations. For now, and throughout the early stages of construction, the pit and the trenches, the planks and the beams were anything we decided they should be. And never since, as it seems to me, have such simple elements as soil and stone, wood and steel managed to be so very ready, so wonderfully able as these in that cavity where the old house had been before it moved up the street.

No comments: