Monday, October 12, 2015

All the places we live

In trying to date this photograph in which I am holding my brother, Richard,
it is helpful to know that he was born during World War II, on May 8, 1943.
Since there is what we in the haiku world call "remaining snow" on the ground,
this is probably toward the end of winter in early 1944. We are dressed for church. 
John squints in the winter sunlight; he is wearing a Sunday coat
that was probably made by my mother, likely from the mill ends she got from
a woolen mill in nearby Vermont. Susan is wearing pigtails; I have graduated
from braids to hair tied back in bows with a classic center part.
Susan is also wearing a woolen coat and seems to be holding a small purse.
My coat has perhaps been cut down from a camel's hair coat 
that I remember my mother wearing. It had a nice, strokable, nap.

The house you can see behind us is 312 First Street, Scotia, New York.
In the 1940 census, recently released, the rental for this flat is listed as $35 per month.
We rented the first floor there until recently; now we have moved next door to 316,
which my parents just bought for $6000. Our friends were aghast:
how would we ever be able to pay off such an immense sum?
The river-rock retaining wall that we later removed (and which--according
to Google Earth--has since been replaced) is partly visible behind us in this photo.
The house has two stories, plus a basement and an attic, 
316 sits on four city lots (my father will grow an immense and productive 
vegetable garden there) and includes a garage and (on Second Street) 
a row of rental garages. garage rent is $5 per month.
Part of the second floor is a flat we can rent;
they have their own front door which opens onto the staircase
which we can also access to get to the attic.
It's a practical arrangement.
For awhile, while my Uncle Merwin Butler is on Okinawa,
Aunt Wilma stays there with cousin Barbara Lee Butler, who is Richard's age.
Aunt Wilma is beautiful, smokes many cigarettes, and wears very red lipstick.
I think she is just about the most beautiful woman in the world.
She is nice, too. 
We had a good life in that house and sold it for $12,000 in 1950
when we bought The Farm for $11,400.
Most of my childhood was spent on First Street, when we
moved to the farm, I was about to turn fifteen.
And then I had to take the bus to school. . .

Here is a little poem about householding by Ted Kooser.


All through the night, the leaky faucet
searches the stillness of the house
with its radar blip: who is awake?
Who lies out there as full of worry
as a pan in the sink? Cheer up, 
cheer up, the little faucet calls,
someone will help you through your life.

Ted Kooser

Sure Signs; new and collected poems,
Pitt Poetry Series, 1980

Now lets write a poem in the voice 
of a common household item!
One, two, three, go!

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