This Old House

I was raised in a house full of old furniture: old desks, old mirrors, old rugs. There are old paintings on the walls and old linens in the drawers. The silver is old, the lamps are old, and at this point, even most of the photographs are old. After all, who prints such things out these days?

Most of the time the images we take stay locked within the device upon which they’re captured. And there they remain, always new, even as the reality that they memorialize grows further and further into eclipse.

Most of the trappings I speak of are legacies from people much older than I, and in turn those people most likely received them from those who were much older than they. It seems that whenever one of my forbears died, the contents of his house were incorporated into a house belonging to the living, folded in and blended through, the everyday effects and commonplace uses of one set of lives engulfed and assimilated—salt and sugar caught up by water, flour, and milk—ever richer, ever thicker, never done.

On and on it went, the generations past living cheek by jowl with the generations present. Open a drawer and you could easily find a wallet from 1957 sitting alongside fingernail clippers, fresh from Walgreens—earrings from a woman dead a hundred years tangled up with an extra set of the new Ford truck keys—or a parasol handle resting next to a packet of Doublemint gum. Portieres as well as pen knives, oyster plates as much as cuff links, the coin of the nineteenth century was kept deep within the purse of the twentieth. [Read more…]