Saturday, July 25, 2009

Far Too Little, Far Too Much


The biggest difference between living at my mother’s house and the rented house we left behind is that, even though we lived there twenty-two years, I always knew we’d be leaving. Now I don’t. And I confess, it bothers me a bit to think I might die here. Not that it matters where I die, or even when. But whether it happens tomorrow or thirty years from now, if it is here, it will be among the whispering heirlooms and antiques, old photo albums, and family memorabilia that life and circumstances have ushered into my responsibility and care.

Fourteen years ago when my mother moved here from California, this house was just a house. Now it is a living museum, and the only place our scattered family members have that ties us together — a place to go, a place to convene, a place to meet and converse amongst things with which we have all been familiar since childhood. It is a wonderful home — not one thing about it is fancy, or ostentatious. The furniture is comfortable and well worn. The kitchen is simple and convenient. The bathrooms need painting and their counters should be replaced. I still have to worry about my hair clogging the shower drain, and I have a typical list of indoor and outdoor repairs. As such, I recognize our good fortune and I am happy and grateful to be here.

But. But? Is there somewhere else I would rather be? Am I not still free to travel, or at least to look forward to traveling? Am I not free to amass a fortune and buy a second little house on the Oregon coast, or in the mountains to the east, or both? Time will tell, I guess. Time will tell how free I am. It will tell how free I allow myself to be. Because it isn’t hard to imagine being shackled by this place, or chained to it, or succumbing to the inertia of the objects it contains and the memories associated with them. I have lived here before: those three years I spent taking care of my mother taught me something. I know far too little, and far too much. The evidence is here, in this book.

Note: And so ends Songs and Letters. After working on this book for four years, this entry caught me by surprise. It shouldn’t have. How could it have been otherwise?


Updates:
A few brief thoughts about the end of Songs and Letters added to News and Reviews.

As the Conversation continues, books are mentioned for the first time in a good long while.

7 comments:

RUDHI - BY CHANCE said...

It sounds to read this whole 'Songs and letters'... This book is available?

William Michaelian said...

Rudhi, you can read all 716 of the entries on my main website. The Songs and Letters link at the end of this blog entry will take you to the title page with links to all of the individual entries.

I do plan for a print edition. It will take awhile to sort out the details.

vazambam said...

Though I haven't had enough time to read more entries, I think this final one's a fitting finale! All's well that ends well?

William Michaelian said...

Thanks! I hope so. But experience tells me that endings and beginnings are of such an overlapping nature that I no longer know whether I’m coming or going.

Joseph Hutchison said...

I've read portions of Songs and Letters online but have to admit I don't absorb words well off the shimmering screen, so I look forward to a print edition. Your final entry is wonderful, but not really an ending: "Time will tell how free I am." So S&L opens out into the freedom of the next thing. I look forward to that too!

Lola Koundakjian said...

Think of it as the beginning of a NEW era.

William Michaelian said...

Joe, thanks. As someone also raised on books I know what you mean about reading online. I’m always amazed and grateful when someone writes to tell me he or she has read something all the way through on my website. I think, “Ah-ha! Another survivor!”

Lola, don’t let my gloomy tendencies throw you — each morning, I think of the day ahead as a new era.