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January 8, 2010

Hawthorn Hill: Handed down memories of dad

This essay will appear one day after my father’s birthday. I do not have much that is concrete to hang on to since he died when I was two and a half, sixty-three years ago.

Add three years and that will be my age early next month. But I do have stories, told to me by my mother and several relatives. One of the things that I have learned over the years is that memories, replete with their images, are often more powerful than the realities that they represent.

I felt that way quite starkly when I finally got around to visiting Thoreau’s Walden Pond. I had a great day walking the pond’s perimeter, standing in the middle of the small plot of ground that was his cabin, and sitting on the bank he sat on musing on the pond’s innate wisdoms and nature’s infinite capacity to teach us all we will ever need to know about ourselves and our preciously short existence.

Today’s Walden Pond has a public beach, its perimeter path is littered here and there with trash, and the silence that so buoyed Thoreau’s spirit has dissipated, replaced by the sounds and vestiges of modern life. There is something to be said for staying away from mythical places.

One of my mother’s favorite stories about my father is about how he would come home from his office, often late, and pick me up and carry me around the Oriental rug in his office.

At the height of his career he was the country’s leading theater architect. As a result, he worked long hours and was away from home often. I did not have to be crying or cranky; he just wanted to spend some time holding me.

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