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Mack Williams: Night Next Door

Recently while visiting in Yanceyville, there was no overnight room at my mother-in-law’s house for me, so obtaining permission, I stayed next door at the home of a neighbor(Charles) temporarily in a rest home.

The house, of brick, had an added wheelchair ramp made of wood, making me compare “bricks” and “sticks;” ( though not aiming for the “straw,” “stick,” “brick,” “wolf ” thing).

The décor seemed “just right,”( though not aiming for the “porridge,” “chair,” “bed,” “bears” thing).

On the kitchen table was a life-size metal rooster, making me think of three amber-color “hen” candy dishes my late wife Diane and I received as part of our wedding presents (1974).  I have seen many such “flocks” at Goodwill.

This years is the Chinese “Year of the rooster!”

A den bookcase was filled with many books looking too young to be a place of “silverfish pressing and preservation”, like many of the books in our book case when I was growing up on the Old Concord Road (as often as I bring up the Old Concord Road, I will resist our society’s penchant for abbreviation and not start calling it the “OCR;” besides, that sounds like something at the hospital).

The “crisp,” unworn books had bindings of beautiful red, green, yellow, and gold, seeming to be from a single book company offering a collection of the classics, in either book-or-the-month format, or “en masse” (reminding me of a lady in Danville who tired of “fiddling” with her old yard and had a landscape company put in a whole new one).

Seeing what resembled school annuals, I pulled one out. In my 1969 East Rowan annual, most guys had their hair combed down over one side of their forehead, and most girls had their hair in the classic “beehive” of the day ( later abandoning their ‘hives”like some bees nowadays).

Charles’ late father “Charlie” was in the Army in World War II, and this was his Army basic training graduation book. There was much more “uniformness” in these annuals than mine. None of them had his hair combed down over one side of his forehead ,unlike the “iconic” (“iconic” in bad way) main figure against whom they fought in the war’s European theater).

There were a couple of German-looking beer steins on the book case, but turning them over revealed their origin to be China.

A Chinese statue in the hall reminded me that Charlie’s son Charles had for a time lived in San Francisco. A living room curio cabinet contained glass dolphin sculptures. A large china closet-curio cabinet contained figures also designed to display Charles’ collection of Morgan and Liberty Dollars, plus other historic U.S. coinage.

Nearby were Charlie’s long-time service plaques for the American Legion, VFW, and Yanceyville Volunteer Fire Department. These men of WWII, (the”big one,” as Dobie Gillis’ father called it) also believed in serving their communities after returning home, as with my late father-in-law Hoyt R. Moore of Yanceyville.

The bathroom was white porcelain with two “color splashes”: a bonnet shell and blue-glass dolphin sculpture, making me think of water flowing for other reasons than the washing away of germs and “worse.

I didn’t examine the bathroom medicine cabinet, but my curiosity did succumb to opening a drawer of the bedside night table. There were old yellowed family snapshots, sympathy cards, and a 1971 funeral home register for Charles’ mother, Charlie’s first wife. These mementos seemed to have been placed within easy reference of hand and heart for reassurance on some night of intermittent sleep.

It’s said a house goes down if no one stays there now and then.

Baseboard heat kicked in sometime during the night, and before I left the next morning, its airflow’s temperature seemed to reflect that of mine, as if my sleep there had performed “breath-to-breath,” and the empty house was now breathing again on its own.

 

 

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