Sunday, June 29, 2008

Written On The Inside Of A Closet Door

Longer ago than I care to remember, I was at a friend's house and wrote something on the inside of a random closet door. I have only the vaguest memories of doing so, but it sounds like something that would seem like a good idea to me. Not that I usually spend a lot of time in other people's closets, but... whatever.

Well, he called me this afternoon because he was spending his Sunday afternoon cleaning out this particular closet so that he could change it into a laundry area, as part of a larger home renovation project, and as he was toiling away, he happened to look up and see my handwriting on the inside of the door.

...Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind...

-William Wordsworth,
Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

Yes, I spent entirely too much time watching Natalie Wood movies as a child.

But it made me think... there's something to be said for putting down roots. In the last 5 years, I have lived in 6 different homes, 3 different countries (if you count HK as a different country from Beijing, which, 1997 notwith
standing, it still is if you go by the necessity of visas to go back and forth).

There are no similar surprises waiting for me on the backs of my closet doors, no long-standing personal history literally etched into the places I've called home in recent years.

Such memory-provoking evidence can be painful, bittersweet, funny, or simply sweet.

I remember a friend from college (who graduated a year or two behind me) told me that after I had graduated, she was sitting in a large lecture hall, trying desperately to stay awake, and was idly scrawling doodles onto the wooden desk that was marked by decades of similar doodles left behind by countless ball point pens pressed firmly enough into the wood to leave an impression. And her eyes focused on this:
"C-Belle was asleep here"
She called me to tell me that she felt as though the past had reached out to her to say hello.

I suppose one takeaway from these stories is that I have a penchant for defacing property and that future hosts should frisk me for pens of any kind before allowing me into their homes.

But I prefer to think it's a fairly common desire... to leave a mark of some kind, and all the better when it's later seen by people who recognize both you and themselves in it.

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