A House Talks About Family Trees

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On my door hangs an American flag that ripples like gentle waves on warm summer days. Inside there are things. Things made by people, much like the flag on my door.

The bookcase has little square cubicles for laying paperbacks and textbooks flat. A myriad of streets and hamlets that tell stories about faraway lands. Rows of cubicles that resemble a parking garage downtown. Parked cars that when started drive ideas and interesting figures around. Faded jalopies crammed with muckrakers who pen dirt and grime. Countless others shirking conformity for a restful night in a swanky hotel like Holden Caulfield talked about.

The girls take turns reading from an old-fashioned school desk you picked up at a thrift store for five dollars. You wouldn’t yell at them if they carved their names on it. Desks at school growing up had every word you could imagine on them, and gobs of gum. You like watching them sit at the desk while they read Rowling, Paulsen and Dickens. Above the desk is an old wooden washboard where you hang photos of them eating ice cream in Pittsburgh a few summers ago. It’s interesting to see the girls growing wise in real time while staying young on the washboard. Sometimes they write stories at the desk under the washboard.

A heating vent by the baseboard is a popular destination for the girls when the wind grows cold. In the morning they come out from under their blankets and scurry to this magic hole, like malnourished birds pecking for plump, juicy earth crawlers. Winter has arrived at my doorstep and the sun goes on hiatus. The windows frost over. I like to imagine the sun hibernating in the vent, snoring, giving off heat. I don’t want to be out here in the cold either, but I am.

It’s not a ding-dong said Audrey when she was three, referring to the dinner bell at Grandma Farley’s house. But the chimes that hang inside my living room that serve as the doorbell do make a ding-dong sound. Your grandma used to call you a ding-dong when you used to clang her chimes together when you were a boy. You hoped she would mistake your prank for an actual caller and go answer a door with nobody there. I think you miss hearing her cuss like a sailor.

Freshwater fish frolic in thirty gallons of liquid delight on top of a 1949 television cabinet you found in someone’s trash years ago. You wish you could swim with them and teach them how to beg and roll over. You wish you could snoop inside their treasure chest when they are not looking. I am referring to the fish, not the people whose trash you raided. I bet one day you will fix the TV so you can watch The Honeymooners and I love Lucy like they did in the old days.

Quilts are the stories of quiet heroes who leave behind chapters about the past. Quilts by Joyce and Mom hang in the living room. They are a celebration of the lives and events taking place under my roof. Their colors hide my wall’s blemishes. Quilts will not fade like wallpaper or peel like paint. You cannot find them at Home Depot. You might be able to find them at a thrift store. But definitely not at Home Depot.

Images of familiar friends are frozen in time and hang by nails over a puffy green couch. The girls climb onto the puffy green couch to listen to the story of how they came to be. A long time ago trees in faraway forests sprouted Virags, Laskowskis, Burkharts, Druckenbrods, Purdys, Klugs, Farleys and Sajovies. Family Tree Workers making thirty cents a day plucked them and delivered them here. Once they arrived they liked it so much they posed for some pictures and ended up as old timey snapshots on a plaster wall. This is how family trees grow.

Illustration by Michelina Sajovie

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