MUSINGS FROM HONG KONG, A JUST JAMES PRODUCTION

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Chapter Eleven: Thornhill

I woke up at 6 in the morning... and for the first time since arriving a week ago... i’ve started to feel something for this house.

Going back home for the Holidays are both unquestionably always surreal as it is oddly reaffirming. While "reaffirming" may not be the exact word to explain the good part of it-- it is true that while so many things change out there in the world... I know that when

I return to Thornhill, this house, and this small Texan town, that things have never changed much… if at all. The mall will always have the same layout and configuration, the same Banana, a bigger Gap, and maybe a new Starbucks. The kids are still the same… but, sluttier than I remember being. Four Star Coffee Bar will forever be there, the same Reading Room, the same German Chocolate Cake, the same artwork from High School friends hanging on the wall (the art still looking high school even though they just did it like last year), but it’s just under new management… for the third time. Then there are the same Holiday parties, with the same crazy extended family…

Things are as they were. But at what price is it to keep the past?

Two days ago, one of my two elder sisters and my brother-in-law managed to make their escape from the house. (They’ve escaped many times before… we all have at one time or another.) With them they carry the last of their things from storage… and now they have nothing left of their past within the house. Two weeks ago, they began to pack… uncovering moldy and dusty boxes untouched for about two decades… going through all types of sentimental junk.

It’s now 6:30 AM, my throat is killing me with all the dust. Everyone is asleep and this house and I are at once alone. We are half awake sitting still in silence… one, listening, to, the, other. I listen to the hum of the heating system, the beep of the oven clock, the sound of the wind… curious to the stories it has all the possibility of telling. Can emotions and sentiments bleed out of the woodwork? Is it possible for the past to resurface and resurrect in the way that we all yearn for? Is this why each year (for the most part) we are willing to play along?

Half of the furniture have been moved around or sold. As it exists, the house is empty and starved… standing clumsily in the dark morning’s night. Christmas decorations are still wrapped as they were before Christmas arrived and left, stacked in boxes; ready to be shipped to some unknown Christmas heaven where all discarded decorations go. The tree stands there like the house, in place, but unadorned save for one white pearl necklace… a strand of white lights newly purchased from the neighborhood Wal-Mart.

The tree, the ornaments, the house have no say in the matter. They do not have a choice. Boxes. Boxes of all types old with mold, wet, and torn lie haphazardly across the floor. Its contents to be thrown away or moved into new boxes and to be taken away like my sisters have done. The house has given up these things back to us. It has no say in the matter.

Old photographs, old journals, old comic books—one by one, bit by bit, my old life once again breathes as it rearranges itself in my mind and on the floor. I’ve begun packing as well.

It’s strange to conceive of the fate of all these things. Christmas this year was really never any “less”. Everyone was modest, humble, and in the act of senseless preparation. New stories were revealed in the appropriate manner… last confessions were shared. This happened in between the acts of cooking, eating, filling, TV watching, brushing teeth, and packing. The sense of urgency that was expected didn’t exist. The house refused to let us feel in that way.

I take this moment to sit here and listen to this house. Naturally in waiting, I already knew what it had to say… that we are all moving forward into our second lives that may or may not include Thornhill. I take this moment to pray for this house… and for its foundations and its walls… when foundations and walls were what each of us needed most.

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