September 26, 2008

You CAN go home again Part 1

It’s been a humbling few weeks. The first of it was spent on Nobel St in Malden, Massachsetts in the house where my mother and Uncle David grew up. The Noble St house has been in my family all my life: first it was my grandparent's house then My Uncle David and Aunt Barbara bought it from my Grandmother in the late 60s. They raised their family there and live there still. The house sits in the midst of a neighbourhood that at one time was filled with family. Around the corner from Noble St was the home of my great-grandparents, George (Magnus) and Louise Tolstrup -a place referred to as 90 Jacob St - where my Grandfather Louis grew up. Cousin Dave took me there and we stood outside speculating about their lives; trying to fill in the gaps between the documentation of our ancestors lives - the censuses, birth, death, marriage and baptism records and their day to day existences, their hopes, dreams, fears and joys. Up another street lived Aunt Dot, up another lived Grandma Moller; My Uncle remembers being constantly in and out of the neighbouring homes of uncles, aunts, cousins, grandmothers, grand-fathers, great-grandmothers and so on.
For me, the Nobel St house is a house full of memories, most of them happy and most centered around wonderful moments spent with my Nana Tolstrup. I can remember sitting at her kitchen table, sorting through her button box while she cooked dinner; or sitting on her back porch (which she called the ‘piazza’) happily snapping the ends off of string beans. Simple pleasures. Days spent with Nana in my young childhood were always special. She had a way of making me feel that there was no one more important to her than I, nothing more important to do than whatever it was we were doing. Sometimes we’d ride the ‘trackless trolley’ downtown and go to the five and dime where Nana would by bobbie pins, or thread or whatever little sundry she needed; we once went to see the movie Sleeping Beauty – a truly special event just for the two of us - on a weekday afternoon. Sometimes, we’d stop at the drug store to get an ice cream soda at the soda fountain. My grandmother is gone now and so is the trackless trolley. Soda fountains have gone the way of the dinosaur and drug stores have changed their name to protect the (not so) innocent: that is depressive housewives and high-level execs can fill their prescriptions for Zoloft without ever having to confront the word ‘drug’.
The Noble St house changed a great deal after my Uncle David and Aunt Barbara bought it and moved in with their 5 sons. Still, it was a place I loved to visit and a place where I’ve continued to feel loved. I've always felt a bit like the daughter Uncle David never had and as I was growing up - especially in my hippie teen days - spending time with Uncle David always made me feel a bit less odd and out-of-place in the suburban world my parents inhabited. Once, long after I was grown, I remarked to my husband, Ed, “I think I’m a lot like my Uncle David.” to which he (shocked) replied, “You just GOT that???!”
Both Aunt Barbara and Uncle David are busy, interesting people: they have variously (and jointly) pursued their passions for history, gemology, puppetry, wine-making, magic and the natural sciences (amongst other things). In the house now is a room we refer to as ‘Uncle David’s room’ where he keeps his treasures: a room filled with collections and cabinets of tiny drawers – each holding some extraordinary thing – a precious gem, a glass eye, an Amazonian beetle, a fox skull, a magic trick or perfect venus comb seashell. My favourite of all his thing, though was an orrery he once bought at a local yardsale (a working, chain-driven mechanical model of the solar system he almost passed up because it had a $4 price tag). A truly marvelous thing.

Now past the age where others retire to golf, TV & knitting, Aunt Barbara hosts her own interview program on the local-access TV station and Uncle David works as an interpreter/guide at the (wonderful) Boston Museum of Science and (one of my favourite places in the world) the Harvard Museum of Natural History. They’re both great people, unique in all the world.

My experience of the house this time is mixed, though. It’s a house full of history, but much of it feels thwarted and stuck. I can’t help but wonder if along with the warm, happy memories of love and family, the house also holds the thwarted dreams and desires of all those who passed through. Perhaps this place is not only the door through which my ancestors might pass from their new world homeland to their ancestral one, but also from this world to the next. There’s an angry ghost in the basement whose energy it seems many have sensed, but few talk about.
All I know is that the energy seems stuck here and this relates absolutely to the work I came here to do: to create a trail for the ancestral spirits and create a way for them to return to us and to their ancestral ground.


Max, Ebbie and the Fuzzheads said...

Great to see a new entry!

I must admit, the Noble st place has always been all about Uncle David and his amazing curios for me. I was barely even aware that Nana Tolstrup ever lived there to be honest.

Can't wait for part 2

Katie and Emir said...

I have missed you...
I think you could make this into a book some day when all the rest is done...if you wanted to!