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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Case for Love

(This story was relocated from the October 05 archive for Valentine's Day 2007.)

It was a classic two-story home built in 1922 with great lines and two strong columns on the porch. The name of the street was Lovejoy, and we loved it and the house the moment we saw the realtor sign in the yard. The inside seemed to whisper at each nook and archway that this was a home where memories had been made and lingered still. Our two Christmases there confirmed this. The front room fireplace crackled and cast a glow on the tree in the corner. Sitting there in my winged-back, I lacked only a pipe to hold smokeless in my mouth. It was that kind of home. I had envisioned seeing my girls grow up in those charming rooms—birthday parties in the family room, prom pictures on the entry stair—and all the changes such pictures bring. But a different kind of change came, and two years after moving in, we were moving away.

We knew this house could sell itself even at 30% above what we had paid for it, so we decided to sell it ourselves and hosted an "Open House." The traffic of lookers was non-stop and very encouraging. Near the end of the ordeal, we put away our signs and brochures as a hint for people to leave, which they all politely did—that is, all but one gray haired lady who remained on our porch as the others left. The hour before, I'd noticed this frail guest touring every inch of all four levels from basement to walk-up attic. Two buyers were coming back that evening. Was she going to beat them to an offer? She was dressed like she could afford our asking price, but what would she do with such a big house? She must have read my puzzled eyes.

"I wanted to wait until the others were gone," she whispered politely. "My name is Charlotte Bascomb, and I lived in this house for twenty-five years. Our two boys grew up here and went off to college from this doorway."

"Oh, come in," we begged, "and do tell us more about it." My wife and I love learning the details of life and up until that moment we had only imagined how the years must have passed in this storied home through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, WWII, the fifties, and so on. As it turned out she had lived there from the late Fifties through the early Seventies, but to our surprise, she said things had ended badly. We were surprised at how stoically she told of her last years in the house, and how her husband, who was a lawyer, had become an abusive alcoholic which led to a divorce and, in the end, to his untimely death. She told the account as if it had happened to a neighbor and not herself. We soon learned why the details seemed so distant.

"After that, I stayed in the house for a few years. The boys had taken jobs out of state. and I didn't like being here alone, so I bought a smaller place. I was alone when the moving van pulled away with everything I owned. I walked through the house one last time from basement to attic—to see if I'd forgotten anything but mostly to remember... things... you know..." (We nodded without a word). "I ended up in the attic and was just about to leave when way back in the corner, I saw a shadow that looked like a little suitcase. You know how bad the lighting is up there." [She was right, but I had added two fixtures.] "By the way, you have the attic so cute. I saw the pictures of your three girls in the hallway, and when I went up in the attic, I thought 'Well, this looks just like Little Women up here.' The way you have that dress-up room and all those antiques and things. I bet the girls love it."

"Oh, they do," we smiled, "and you're right, we often call them our 'little women' when they spend the day up there, but you were saying something about a little suitcase...."

"Oh, yes. That. Except it wasn't a suitcase at all. It almost frightened me the more I stared at it. I was afraid to reach for it in the dark, but soon as I touched the worn leather handle, I remembered what it was, and I brought it out to the window to see it in the light. The case was a dusty mess, but the brass clasps flipped up, and inside it was just as bright as I remembered there in the red velvet.

It was my son's saxophone. He played in the marching band at the high school. I hadn't seen it for years—who would've put it so far back? And then I remembered something that bothered me. This wasn't really my son's saxophone—it was the one he used alright—but I remembered that it actually belonged to an old family friend.

You see, my husband played in a jazz band in college, and he and his buddies kept rehearsing for years afterwards even though they rarely actually performed anywhere. Things were good then…. Well, anyway, years later, my oldest wanted to play in the band and Howard—he was the friend—said we could borrow his sax. So all through school, John—that's my son—used it, but I had no idea we'd left it there in the attic all those years. It's a miracle I even saw it in that dark corner. It was the only thing I carried out of this house the last time I was here."

"Wow. That's quite a story, and you almost left it here." I said half wondering what else to add to this awkward pause as we stood in the arched entry way. I gestured toward the living room and asked if she would like to stay longer.

"No. I really need to be going. I just wanted to meet you and tell you how wonderful it was to see such a happy, beautiful home again." And then she smiled like she had a secret to tell.

"This will only take a minute. I think you should know... After things settled a bit—a year or so—I called Howard. He'd moved out east, but I finally tracked him down. He laughed when I told him I found his saxophone but told me to give it to Goodwill. I told him I couldn't do that—it wouldn't be right—and it wouldn’t, you know, not after all that." (We nodded in wholehearted agreement.) "Howard and I talked for the longest time. His wife had passed away a few years prior. That was too bad. It's hard to live alone. He was semi-retired but was getting ready to fly to Europe on business the next day. So we had to get off the phone, but he did ask for my number. I thought that was nice—but since he didn't want the sax, I wasn't sure I'd ever hear from him. Well, about two weeks later who do you think called?"

Our eyebrows rose with unconvincing suspense, "Howard?"

"Yes. It was Howard. We visited a bit and then he said, 'You know, Char—he never called me Charlotte—I've been thinking about that saxophone, and you're right. I think I need to come and get it. Will you be home this weekend if I fly in?' Well, I was speechless. Of course, I'd be home. Where else would I be? But I didn't know what to say. I offered to send it UPS, but he said, 'No, I think I need to come and get it myself.' And that's just what he did. We had a wonderful time that whole weekend—he was always such a gentleman—but then he went and forgot the sax so he had to come back the next week. Well you probably guessed it...we got married later that year, and I spent the happiest 12 years of my life with Howard. It was wonderful right up until the end... cancer."

The word abruptly punctuated her thoughts but had no effect on her smile, and her eyes still held the joy they found in those unexpected happy years.

"It's been four years—just me again, but at my age I can't complain. I had a second chance at love and it was wonderful—just like our street sign says 'Lovejoy.'" (There was another pause, but this one needed no words.) "Thank you for listening to an old woman's story and for making me feel welcome in my home—your home, I mean. I really do need to be going. I want to call my boys and tell them where I've been."

"The pleasure was all ours," we said, stepping to the porch and helping her down to the front path. Half way to her car she turned and took one last look at the house then cast a glance at the attic window.

"I still have that saxophone in my closet at the apartment— be sure to check the attic corners when you leave." Her hand held back a laugh, but her shoulders shook a little as she smiled and walked away.

© Copyright 2005, TK, Patterns of Ink

(I was moved by this lady's story when she told it to us in June of 2000. Hearing it made it even harder to accept that we were moving. But we were also very happy the next day when the house sold to a Doctor with a young family. He and his wife couldn't wait to move in. Whenever we or our children travel back to that town in Iowa, we drive by "the little blue house" on Berkshire [which has since been painted yellow]. We lived there for 13 years. We also drive by this wonderful home on Lovejoy, where we lived for only two years before moving to Michigan. We love it here, but the house is newer and the seven years have passed too fast it seems for stories. [It has been my experience that the stories closest to home take the longest to crystallize into something you can hold up to the light and say, "Wasn't that beautiful."])

If you're in the mood for another story about a second chance at love,go to my April 06 Archive. Scroll down to April 1 "Visiting Home." It's the first of four sequential, "verse" posts about my Mom's wedding cake (and what happened fifty years later).

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Blogger Josie said...

That is such a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. Do you mind if I direct other people to read it? It's wonderful.


14/2/07 11:31 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I don't mind at all. It was wonderful to hear that sweet lady tell us about it there in our entry way. I told my Mom about it today. She has her own similar story that in some ways is even more ironic (see the links to April o6)

15/2/07 12:14 AM  
Blogger JR's Thumbprints said...

Josie's right, nicely told story.

15/2/07 12:58 AM  
Blogger Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Hi, I came by via Josie's. I read the story and came close to tears. "Came close to" cause I was in a cafe and I don't like blubbering in public. It's a great tale. I love stories of lives and memories tied to houses that have been homes in the true sense. Thanks for sharing.

15/2/07 4:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your stories all are so well-written and then copy-written. I have to ask...do you wrote for a living??
They all are so eloquent and lovely!

15/2/07 8:58 AM  
Blogger Nancy said...

I just love your stories, keep writing. I also love the sculpture you gave your wife with the inscription, what a romantic husband you are! And then there is the quote you left over at "Nitty.Gritty" which is perfect, it doesn't matter if the cups half full or half empty, all that really matters is "Who fills it up"! or something like that. Have a great day and thanks for blessing my day.

15/2/07 2:44 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks, JR. I told my brother about your blog.

Lone Grey Squirrel,
Welcome to Patterns. Are you really in Malaysia? I don't mean to sound so amazed, but the internet still amazes me. That blue picture on your post Wednesday is chilling and beautiful.

I don't write for a living--not in the sense you mean--but I do like writing (moreso the older I get), and I do hope someday to gather and sort and press between two covers something that may resemble a book. Thank you.

Hope you and yours had a great Valentines Day. How are the wedding plans coming? Ours are moving along well from what I can tell (from a distance. I enjoy watching the ladies enjoy the enjoyment... =)

15/2/07 8:05 PM  
Blogger OP SuZ Q said...

HI!! I'm enjoying reading your writings - I came here from Jody's blog............was reading the summaries of your wife's heart problems back in 04............did you ever finish documenting that? I was unable to find the conclusion......thanks - and stay warm up there!!! :) susan

15/2/07 8:46 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

I'm going to send this story to my daughter. She and her family have just moved into a house that is exactly as you have described in the story. And it was lived in for the past 60(!) years by only one other family. The ghost of the mother still lives in the house. And there is a large attic upstairs that's a playroom. It could be this house exactly.


15/2/07 10:01 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I was writing during Julie's months of recovery (pre-blog).I had completed that story and accidentally deleted the remaining chapters with no back-up. A sad moment at the keyboard, but I learned from it.
I did try to rewrite it and someday those drafts will be tweaked and posted. (Sooner now that I know they may be of interest. Thank you for asking.) The important thing is that my lovely wife is doing very well. She is very active personally and professionally.

That Lovejoy neighborhood was full of well-kept older homes with character. Judging by the number of new huge homes going up all around, many folks prefer starting fresh, but we don't mind that "lived in" sense at all (as long as it's not "still lived in" =).

16/2/07 6:47 AM  
Blogger OP SuZ Q said...

Thx for your reply!! I'm so glad to know you will eventually post the blogging you did regarding your wife!! It was very well written and interesting....I know what you mean about "learning a lesson" regarding the "backup"!! I, too - lost several digital pictures once and it was heartwrenching but it won't ever happen again!! I didn't even know, of course, where the road went with your bloggings ending where they did - but there was a tiny document written somewhere - I think - a poem you wrote, that said, written while my wife was in open heart surgery...........and i was SHOCKED to know that her problems actually led to that!! (and i wanted to read more, but there was no "more" to be found!!) I am so thankful for your family that all is well and she is living a happy and productive life!! :) THANKS!!

16/2/07 9:43 PM  

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