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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

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bringing Home the Duncan Phyfe: Chapter 19

Warm Thoughts in the Cold

With dessert long past and the dishes done, the front room windows were now black but for the glow of inside lamps. Mom stepped into Dad Collinge’s room to get their coats.

[Note: I heard the following account many times as a child. It's one of those "can't prove it" things, and I’ve never been much of a mystic, but I confess the thought of it used to creep us kids out whenever went in that room.]

It was in this very room not yet two years before that Mom was sitting beside the bed with her dying grandmother. Her parents and grandfather were on the front porch glider just outside the open window. Mom sat there alone with this dear lady who was like a mother to her, when suddenly Grandma Collinge’s eyes widened. “He’s here, Beverley,” she said. Mom called the others into the room. “I see him at the end of the bed, He’s here,” the faint voice repeated. “Who, Mom? Who do you see?,” they whispered. She looked at them briefly puzzled as if all those around the bed should know who she saw. “Jesus,” she whispered and was gone.

Dad stepped into the little room and saw mom staring at the pillow there.

“I thought you got lost. Are you alright?”

“Just thinking,” Mom smiled, handing him his coat.

After a flurry of hugs and goodbyes at the back door—yes, they lived just ten minutes away, but Mom has always made the most of farewells—Mom and Dad hustled out to the car. They could see their breath in the November air. The cold, cracked vinyl of the bench seat chilled Mom right through her long coat.

"I wish you had warmed up the car before we got out here. It always takes so long for the heater to work. We'll be half-way home before it does any good."

"Do you realize how much gas it wastes to leave a car running for five or ten minutes?" Dad paused, because he, in fact, had no idea how much gas it actually used. "It's bad enough we gotta pay 20 cents a gallon. I don't want to waste it just to heat up the car. Just scoot over here. I'll warm you up."

Mom slid over and Dad put his gloved hand around her shoulder.

"Here's why you don't warm up the car. I know ya, Don."

"What?" Dad asked innocently with a squeeze. He began whistling as always when he was all “talked out.” At first Mom didn't recognize the tune, but she had played it on the piano just a couple hours before: "My Blue Heaven." [Heard here.]

He whistled through the part that says: "You'll find a smiling face, a fireplace, a cozy room...And a little nest that nestles where the roses bloom..." Then he smiled and sang the last two lines... "Just Molly and me, and my baby makes three...We're happy in my, blue heaven."

"It's blue alright—blue because I'm freezin'!" Mom laughed then said more seriously, "and baby makes three. Here I am... hardly able to button my coat... and it still doesn't seem real. Does it to you?"

"What that we're having a baby? I think about it every day."

"I do, too. That's not what I mean. I mean how it will change things. Like for instance, we'll have to move out of the apartment. Have you told Larry yet?" ...[Larry was their Landlord.]

"I haven't told him, but he's got eyes. I don't know why they won't rent to couples with a baby."

"Because of the thin walls. They don't want to hear the crying—Jupiter! They can hear everything we do up there. It's a wonder they didn't tell me I was pregnant before Dr. Licker did."

They both laughed, but Mom hated the thought of starting over again, and she tried not to think about it as she watched the street lights pass. Finally she said, "Wasn't it was good to be home?"

"It was."

"Do you feel at home there, too, or are you just saying that?"

"No. It really was nice. I always feel at home at your folks' house."

"Me, too." she sighed turning on the heater. "Finally some heat. Now you can sing that song again and I won't make fun."

Dad didn't sing. He was deep in his own thought and didn't here what she said. He was thinking about how his family had lived in several houses during the same years that Bev had lived in just one, and he was trying to determine which of them felt most like home to him. It was certainly not the most recent place. Then he said out loud...

"I think it was 16th Street."

"What are you talking about?"

"You asked me where I felt most at home as a kid, and it's probably on 16th and Minnie. You know by the tunnel. [The rail tunnel to Canada.] That's about five houses ago."

"I said you could sing again. I didn't ask you that question..."

"You didn't? It felt like someone did... Oh, well. That's not home anymore." He squeezed her shoulder again.

"That's sad to me, Don. We could go drive by it."

"I do sometimes, but it's not like 'going home' like you did today."

"I'm sorry I brought it up. I know you hated all that moving."

"Don't be, Bev. Time marches on."

"I know it does, but sometimes it's good to go back home—if not through the door than in your mind like you just did. It's good to remember those things."

"I suppose..." Dad sighed, turning into the driveway beside their apartment. The gravel crunched beneath the tires then stopped. "We're home." The words slipped out in empty irony.
Mom patted his knee and slid across the bench seat to her door.

As they stepped up the stairs and inside, Mom paused beside the little table in the kitchen.

"Didn't Mom's table look nice?"

"It did."

"I know now what I want for Christmas," she hinted.

"I saw you looking at the table cloth when I came upstairs. What kind was it. I'll bet they have 'em at Sperry's?"

"I wasn't looking at the table cloth, Silly. I was looking at the table. That's what I want for nice meals—they're formal and yet..."

"We don't need a new table, and we don't have room for one anyway."

"We aren't going to be here much longer. Besides, I don't want a big one, and they fold up nice. The one I want is..."

"Well, just the same. Do you have any idea how much those things cost?" Dad paused again because just as he had never calculated how much it costs to warm up a car, he had never priced such a table cost, but Mom surprised him with an answer.

"It's called a Duncan Phyfe, Don. Your mom has one. My mom has one, and actually, I do know how much the one I want costs—it's not a new table. There's a used on in the paper." Dad was now listening. She picked through a stack of notes and envelopes stashed inside a cook book, and handed him a torn scrap from the Times Herald.

"Ho Ho Ho..." she smiled.

To her surprise, he looked at the price and tilted his head ever so slightly to the right—always a good sign. Without saying another word, she stepped into the bedroom, slipped into her pajamas, got in bed first, and began humming "My Blue Heaven" when Dad turned out the lights and walked across the darkened room.


Blogger Josie said...

Tom, I've been so busy working lately *sigh* I haven't been able to read all my favorite blogs, so I'm just catching up now. This story of your mom and dad is so lovely. I have been thinking of what it reminded me of, and then I realized, it reminded me of "The Notebook", which is a movie with Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, James Garner and Gena Rowlands. It was originally a novel by Nicholas Sparks. You should rent the movie, and perhaps watch it with your mom. I think you would enjoy it. It has the same lovely feeling as the story you are writing, and in the same era.

I feel as if I know your mom and dad.

30/11/07 1:45 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I have seen that movie but not read the book. It is quite a testament of enduring love and loyalty. I'm probably too close to this particular story to see the similarities--but here's what it might be... that story is a re-telling and so is this. I'm retelling bits and pieces of things I (we kids) heard all our lives, but until now, they've never been written down. In fact, I was on the phone with Mom last night to get the name "Larry" and the 16th Street detail, etc. That along with the fact that you guys are getting the story in spurts interrupted by "real life" probably explains the similar feeling. If when it's done the story evokes that tone when read all together, I would truly be pleased with the project. Thanks for reading and commenting, Josie.

30/11/07 7:02 AM  
Blogger the walking man said...

I doubt that you will have a problem accomplishing what you set out to do in the flavor of this story. From front to finish there has been something here for every one who has read it and kept up with it.



30/11/07 7:35 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks for being one of them. It has been sort of the Chinese water torture with a drip every few days, but I'm convinced if I were just typing these drafts the old way rather than blogging them, I would have run out of motivation. Mom reads each one (Bob prints them out for her). That's been a source of both inspiration and content.

30/11/07 5:30 PM  
Blogger Cris said...

Twenty cents a gallon?! It's almost hard to imagine considering what gas prices are these days, huh?

30/11/07 6:58 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I remember "gas war" prices that were almost that low in the 1970's, and gas was still well below $1.00 a gallon in 1980 when Julie and I got married, but you're right... .20 per gallon seems laughable because we see gas prices jump that much heading to or from work. =) But Dad (and eventually Mom) were always that way about "saving pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves."

30/11/07 8:32 PM  
Blogger Josie said...

Tom, thanks for telling me about "The Pictures of Hollis Woods". I'm watching it now (it's later on the coast) and it's wonderful...!

3/12/07 12:04 AM  
Blogger HeiressChild said...

one of the jeopardy answers last week had to do with duncan phyfe, and the question was, "what is furniture?" i knew the answer (actually, the question) from your blog.

i could see this being a hallmark movie. it's so romantic and homey like the hallmark movies are.

3/12/07 12:07 AM  
Blogger HeiressChild said...

i watched "the pictures of hollis woods" tonite also. it was so good, and i only used 3 kleenex. it came on at 9pm here.

3/12/07 12:08 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Got up early to check the "snow." Looks like no need to delay or cancel today. Just messy....

I'm glad you got that comment in time. My daughter just read that book for school, so she was pretty excited to watch it, and then when one of the main characters was an artist named Josie... I thought you'd want to watch it in Pacific Time.

Now that is a high compliment indeed. I need all the motivation I can to get this done and wrapped with a bow before Christmas. Thanks for reading it in installments!

3/12/07 5:51 AM  
Blogger Wayne said...

I don't usually read long blog entries, but this one did capture me. Thanks.

3/12/07 7:51 AM  
Blogger Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I also haven't had time to come by lately but I see you are still putting out this wonderful series. I am astounded by the detail that you have been able to put into this story of your parents. They have really come alive in the words that you have written.

3/12/07 11:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is what I was talking about in the comment at 18. The story make me think about my own life while reading about you mother and fathers. I know exactly where I mean when I say home and it is not where I now live. What does that mean?

3/12/07 3:01 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thanks for stopping by. A blog may not be the best venue for a protracted episodic project. I'm glad it was of interest. Thanks for saying so.

Glad you're safely back from your trip. Believe it or not, I'm almost to the chapter that triggered the whole thing. =)

I haven't seen the other comment yet, but thank you. What does it mean? Hmmm...
I know that when we've been away, it feels very good to step back into this house. But when I step into my "homestead home" (the house we built with Mom and Dad where she still lives) that also feels like home because that was where I longed to be when I was away in college. I also have about 30 years of memories in my wife's parents' home. So I guess it's normal to feel "at home" at more than one place and a current address may not be at the top of the list.
I think your question (and the one Dad was pondering that night) is deeper than this answer. It's not about feeling "at home" it's about the place that feels most "like home." That is really what this story has been touching on and I'm sorry my answer is not better. Hmmm... I will have to wrestle with this more before the last chapter.

3/12/07 8:01 PM  
Blogger HeiressChild said...

tom, i think your answer is good about feeling at home. i feel at home in my mother's house. i feel very comfortable there. i can walk all thru her house, go in her fridge and be at home. however, that being said, the place that feels most like home to me is my own home where i live now, maybe because all of "my" things and my own memories are here. i also think people are what helps to make you feel at home.

perhaps that's why places feels like home to people (you, your parents) because of the familiarity of the furniture, rooms, family, etc.--the memories from everything when you were growing up there. i think you explained it pretty good in your comments to anonymous, especially the last paragraph. i hope this didn't sound like i was going in circles. i was trying to put my thoughts in words; not sure how well i succeeded in doing so.

4/12/07 12:13 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I'm sure there are books and books about this, but it's fun to sort of hoe our own row on this topic. It's a simple feeling; we know when it's there; we know when it's not... but it takes a lot of stuff to feather a nest and I suppose they're each unique. You've touched on the key elements, though, relationships and familiarity. A third element might be security (which is more than comfort. Comfort may explain feeling "at home" whereas the other elements may touch on that "home" feeling itself.)
Some readers are saying--you're making this way too complicated, Tom! Sorry. I'm just thinking out loud. Thanks for pondering with me.

4/12/07 4:27 PM  

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