IN THE MEMORY HOUSE
Fulcrum Publishing, ISBN: 1555912478
A Lost Spring
There was a man I loved to visit. He lived in the house he grew up in-a wonderful, warm, cluttered house that seemed larger inside than out. There were long hallways and rooms, and a barn lined with the things he had collected-antlers and bones, small animal skulls, wood of all sorts. He would carve animals on these or paint scenes of how it used to be. He carved my wife’s wedding ring.
I could have listened to him tell me stories for hours. He knew how many turtle eggs it took to make enough mayonnaise to last the summer. In his stories he could remake the land, clear away the woods and bring back the farms he knew in his youth, the trains, the factories making clothespins.
His house is two hundred years old, shaded by a maple tree probably as old-the tree is what you look at first. The house seems to be keeping the tree company. He told me once that it used to get so cold upstairs in his sisters’ bedrooms that the nail heads in the wall would frost over. And in summer it would be so hot up there. But they would run down to the swimming hole and come back and slip under the sheets-real cool. The swimming hole was a marvelous place. It was fed by a spring.
Some years back, the state widened the road and built a new bridge. They had to drop a cement slab on that spring. Plugged it right up, he told me. It took quite a load of cement and a bit of engineering, but they stopped the spring and the bridge goes through straight. You wouldn’t even notice it.
When I pass his house and that great maple tree, I picture the spring, and the children swimming there in summer twilight.
And when I am away from this corner of New Hampshire, down among the landscape of haste-parking lot and highway, mall and condo—I look into the faces of my countrymen and I think of the plugged spring.