Friday, June 07, 2013

On the front porch; a memory thread

This photograph has just about everything! (Use a single click to enlarge.) You can even see the remnant of the pretty deckle-edge photos used to have. A weird light-leak or other light damage--probably to the negative--adds interest. This is the front porch of  316 and 314 First Street, Scotia, New York. Judging from the age of David, the baby, I think my mother, Olga, is holding, it is sometime in autumn 1945--when it was cold enough to to wear coats and hats. I am the older girl in the back. John is in the center with his sweet trusting smile.

Susan is seated in front in a dark bonnet. She is playing with something that I cannot identify, She and a small boy I think is Richard are seated on a small suitcase that I am sure is the dimpled leather one with my mother's maiden initials, OB, on it. Later, I carried that case to college for my first year--filled with my "school supplies," papers, ink, tape, staples, etc. The boy in a knit helmet in front of me is Wynston Leigh, who lived next door then. Later, his family moved back to Utah.

The occasion for the photo is mysterious. Is Mom going somewhere? Maybe to the hospital to have Robert, who was born Nov. 2, 1945? Is Wynston there because the Leigh's are taking my mother to the hospital? Likely something much more prosaic.

Other things I like about this photo: the shaft of sunlight on the right, the reflections in the glass door of our entrance, which include the moon-gate opening in the lattice on the porch, the porch itself--a reminder of how important porches were then to neighborhood life, a way of life that is gone now. I also see the mailbox between the two doors (the one at right is to the apartment that we rented out until my brothers were older, when it became a sort of boy-cave with a disconnected gas stove, and operating kitchen sink) is the mailbox for one family, in a size that was perfectly adequate to contain the amounts of mail we got then.

I also like the old fashioned door hardware and moldings. The pipe stair railing has the look of something practical added by my father, who often privileged function over aesthetics. This house was a two family house, with attic and basement, which sat on four town lots, and had a freestanding sort-of-garage and a row of four rental garages facing onto the back street. My parents paid $6000 for it and were warned by friends that they would never be able to pay back such a huge mortgage. We lived there until we moved to The Farm. We nourished fruit trees, a vegetable garden, a grape arbor, rhododendrons, white and lavender lilacs, forsythia, flowering quince, and daffodils. My mother grew bittersweet, with its decorative orange berries, on the front porch trellises. For autumn, we usually hung a bunch of varicolored "Indian Corn" near the doorway.

World War II has just ended, We live in the Village of Scotia, a friendly place. [Addendum on the following day: An earlier post gives a passage from Nabokov that goes very well with this post and this topic; Here's the link.]

Tonight's poem is another Vendler pick from The Harvard Book of Contemporary Poetry, page 145.


My great wars close:
ahead, papers,
signatures. the glimmering
in shade of leaf and raised wine:
orchards, orchards,
vineyards, fields,
spiraling slow time while
the medlar
smarts and glows and
empty nests come out in the open:
fall rain then stirs
the black creek and
the small leaf slips in.

A. R. Ammons

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