In 1969, when my father was at war overseas, my mother and I were on the front porch of our 1910 Bungalow in Kansas. The wind pushed my toys over the edge and into the grass. My mother was leaning on the railing, talking quietly to our neighbor. I crawled across the painted wood and reached through the rail and felt the soft tops of the wheat-colored grass.
In 1970, I walked into a dark bedroom and stood at the foot of my Grandfather’s bed. I reached through the rail to touch the top of the quilt my Great Grandmother had made. I watched the quilt rise and fall with his breathing.
In 1971, I placed my hands and feet on opposite sides of the door casing in my Grandmother’s house. As soon as the “grown-ups” were paying attention, I climbed to the top of the frame and reached up to touch the ceiling.
In 1977, I lay down on the orange shag carpet just outside my bedroom door. I placed my face on the floor grate, and turned to the side until I could see the edge of the television my parents were watching downstairs.
In 1985, I climbed over the chain-link fence and walked towards the abandoned house on the hill. I stopped halfway up the dirt driveway and sat down to look at the lights in the city below.
In 1988, I walked past the power plant towards the enormous pile of finely ground coal. I rolled an empty steel drum to the edge of the black mountain. For hours I shoveled coal into the drum. The next day I weighed the drum full of coal, then I emptied the drum, and weighed it again. I measured the diameter and height of the drum. I placed my handwritten equations into a folder, and left it on a desk in room 202.
In 1990, I put my lead pointer down on the edge of my paper and walked out of the Art and Architecture building. I went into the basement of the Music Building to a small windowless room only large enough to hold the upright piano. I sat on the small wooden bench and played Bach, poorly, with my eyes closed.
In 1992, I stood in a dark kitchen and moved slowly towards her. I reached out and brushed her hair from her eyes.
In 1999, I stood at the pedestal sink in the small bathroom on the second floor of our 1910 Bungalow in Kansas. The intern from the Neurology department had called with the results of his MRI. I held onto the edge of the sink tightly and looked into the mirror. After a few minutes, when I thought I could let go, I did. I heard the sound of wind passing through the grass outside the window. I walked into his room, and reached through the crib rails to place my hand on his forehead. I watched the quilt that my wife had made rise and fall with his breathing.
What were your important places? the ones that defined who you are?
photo is from Annadriel’s photostream on Flickr (used under creative commons license)