Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ineffable Place

*****I dreamt Jamie was at my house, but not my house.   I don’t know why I dreamt of her… .  She was at my house, but not my house.  A big, old, drafty clapboard house.  Painted green and cream.  There we sat with mugs of tea, talking about the incredible job of child rearing.  She telling me how she let her two (I thought she had three?) fall asleep in her bedroom in a bed jury-rigged to a ceiling track so she could easily slide them over to their bedroom when she finally went upstairs to bed.  Dreams are silly things sometimes...*****

But it was Jamie who lived in the clapboard house.  A beautiful, old, limestone and clapboard house in Maryland; the foothills of the misty, mystic Blue Mountains.   A house with a name: Lliana Lodge.  I never knew houses had names.  

Long ago…yesterday, in a grade seven summer with common entrance behind us and childhood a close second, our teachers rewarded us with two field trips: one to Castleton, the other to Jamie’s house.  I remember bringing the permission slip home to have it signed.  I remember the morning of the trip, my futiley imagining what our day was going to be like, as though going to someone’s house was an extraordinary thing. But this house had a name!  So it could not have been an ordinary thing.

The morning finally came and we were off!  Driving up familiar Hope Road, past Hope Gardens (and its intrepid maze), past the familiar zoo and its tired old lion (that recently died, poor thing), past familiar Coconut Park (now a ghost…ever notice how very creepy amusement parks are when empty?).  Past the river on the right, over the petite flat bridge, past the bougainvillea strangled walls of Blue Mountain Inn…round and round, eventually spilling out onto an unfamiliar, unassuming stretch of road.  If you could call it a road, for this ‘road’ was a green carpet.  Rolled out before us leading into the interior.

We were almost there!

Our green carpet led to a clearing.  Blue-green, with a dewy veil woven of a million tiny prisms scintillating the light of an ideal mountain sun.  A backdrop of pine trees (an unfamiliar sight) swayed welcome.  This clearing stretched out to forever, or so it seemed to me at 10; and at its vantage point sat a house.  Done in a style that I'd eventually come to know as Jamaican Georgian (a tag that 10 could care less about). Clapboard walls rose above its limestone base.  Broad, solid wood floors creaked "welcome" underfoot.  Huge, glorious iron mullioned casement windows cranked outwards.  A wide, covered verandah.   Cavernous pitched roof with exposed beams and shingles, punctuated by the ubiquitous white cap and comb (absurd name: “cap and comb”) running atop the ridge beams.  It was the most beautiful house I had ever seen; this house with a name.  

Her mother (now deceased) had the baby (now married…some years ago in Treasure Beach) in her lap, and was seated by the huge, round breakfast table in a carved oak ‘double press back’ American style chair.  There were six of these chairs around the table.  The chairs, her ‘white’ mother (from a ‘prominent’ Jamaican family) and the fact that they lived in this spectacular picture book house so unlike anything I had seen in my young life made me think, for a long time, that Jamie’s parents were American.

I remember narrow-paned French doors that opened onto two steps down, which marked the entrance to Jamie’s bedroom.  Her own room!   We stood in awe of her bed, her big-paned windows that opened outwards, seducing the morning breeze to dance with the curtains.  Her little bookcase, her toys, her vanity, which held a miniature donkey hamper with four packs of Bubble Yum…American candy…one of which went missing before the day’s end, causing a minor furore and an unjust accusation… .

I remember the pool in the back with its whitewashed sides and white painted patio surround anchored on all sides with whitewashed urns...geraniums and ferns spilling over their Greek keyed rims.   I remember a tree standing to the side of the house beside its fern-lined, half asphalt-half grass-half impatiens driveway.  It boasted a white cartwheel leaned up against it and tethered one end of a white woven hammock.  I fell in love with white cartwheels and hammocks that day.

I remember the property stretching all the way down to a river.  Tributary, actually.  We were allowed to climb under the barbed wire to swim and climb the massive boulders that were as hot as the river was cold.  Icy cold.   We ran back up to the house, shivering and dripping, after an hour or so, maybe less – time expands and contracts when you are that age.  We ran back, ecstatic yet reluctant, for it was time to go.

It was time to go…to leave this clapboard house, this old house, this named house.  House of Old Jamaica: a place of time past and present.  A cached place; a temporal place; a yesterday moving through time. 

It was time to go and we left.  I look back in space-time and see the mist from the peak descending.

- Torsdag


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