IMPORTANT NEW NOTES FROM JUSTIN:
US Tour Day 108: What A Building Has Seen
It's amazing how much history an edifice can carry within its walls. It's not something I normally think about. But, I can't help but be reminded of it as I sit on an old wicker couch with tapestried cushions in the old mansion dubbed Lydia House. The eight bedroom house sits on a ridge owned by St. Dorothy's Rest. St. Dorothy's is the summer camp I went to as a child and later—when I was old enough—worked at as a young adult.
On a clear day I'd be able to see all the way across the valley to the mountain on the other side from from this old couch. But, today the valley is heavy with white fog and shapes are only barely visible through it, a sort of temporary glaucoma.
The house seems silent at first, at least when compared with the level of aural excitement I'm used to. But, then I listen more carefully. There's the creaking of old wood, the buzzing of a fly, the calm white noise that is wind rushing through the valley below.
I've been in this house many times before.
When I was a camper here this house was off limits. The chaplain and their family stayed here, and the closest we got was a walk up the broad stone stairs that led to the front doors. We peeked in the windows sometimes, wondering what happened in this house larger than any of us had ever lived in.
Once I found a black widow in the wood pile under the front window. I looked for it again the next summer, but it wasn't there anymore. I was much younger then.
There was the time that I snuck up here late one summer night to fool around with another camp counselor. I think we had sex in the bathroom. Was it the bathtub? The ten years that have passed have almost completely eroded the memory until now it is faint and shapeless, as if viewed through the fog I see outside the window.
Another time I remember using things I found in the tall, stainless steel refrigerators to make the world's smallest sandwich. Melba toast was the bread. You know, those hard mini–breadlets shaped like normal bread but much smaller, as if made for elves. I think there was lettuce and maybe some meat. I put on lots of black pepper and definitely some mustard. I hate mustard, so I remember putting it on. The sandwich was only about an inch and a half square. I took a photograph of myself holding it and I can see the picture in my mind. I was in high school and still had long hair and my old purple–lensed eyeglasses, the ones that my friend Joshua Spencer left for me after he died of leukemia.
Then there was the crazy weekend when we all got into the industrial refrigerators and took pictures. Was I 16 or 17 years old? Nobody was old enough to drink alcohol but everyone was drinking anyway. Everyone except me. I didn't get drunk for the first time until I was 22, so I had to resort to taking photos of myself in refrigerators in order to have fun at that age. None of us had grey hairs yet, none of us were married, none of us had children. We had full reign of a few industrial refrigerators, though. And we had late nights laughing and film cameras and summer jobs at a camp up on a mountain where we made $100 a week. We still thought it was a lot of money.
I remember sitting on the bench behind the old mansion and playing Every Day Is Roses for some of my counselor friends on a lazy day off in between camp sessions. I don't remember who was there anymore but I remember it was sunny and hot and the grass was brown and dry. The air smelled like dust.
We had a reunion here some years ago for people who'd worked as counselors. Late one night Andrew got up on the kitchen counters and took his shirt off and put whipped cream all over his nipples. I took pictures and laughed until I cried. It couldn't have been too long ago, since I had a digital camera.
Years later I sat on one the old wicker couches and wrote the rest of the words to Blue Eyes, a love song about a girl I couldn't get out of my head. That was only a year or two ago now.
And these are just a few of my own memories. Over the last hundred years these wooden shingles and broad windows and old bedrooms each with their own porcelain sinks have been a backdrop to countless moments for countless people. What about their memories? Did they kiss someone for the first time here or write a song on the couch where I'm sitting? What hearts were broken? What love was ignited? What did they get inside of so they could take funny photographs before there were stainless steel industrial refrigerators?
I don't know—I can't know—the depth of what history this single old building has seen. My feeble mind can barely contain—can barely maintain—my own history. My memories fade and the colors all run together, and names and dates melt into broad, wide brushstrokes as details are replaced with vague feelings and senses of what I think might have been but am not so sure anymore.
But, holding on to memories is like catching shooting stars. We try all our lives to do it, but it's so hard. And so we fade away like our memories and our lives are replaced by some vague idea or sense of what we once were. And all that's left to appreciate what we used to be are the places where we once made moments, the summer camp fields and old mansions in the mountains and the stoic walls and the porcelain sinks and the dry grass. We won't remember any of it when we're gone. So, hopefully they will remember for us.
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