It’s intriguing, the moment that it comes to mind. You’d think it would come in moments of quiet, in moments of solitude, when everything is still and that sleeping voice–that one that’s never forgotten, never gone, only dormant for a while–can raise its whisper in your thoughts. But it’s not the moments of silence; it’s not when I’m in bed at night, or gazing over my morning coffee before the boys wake up for the day. It comes in the moments of laughter, of daily life. It comes when we are all together in our day-to-day routine. The dinner table with the empty chair. The vacant spot in the van on the way home from the grocery store. The bedtime routine that is one goodnight kiss and I-love-you too short. Someone is missing. I don’t think of him–or her–as a baby anymore. I think of him as a child, as someone who had turned six this past summer, like he would have. In my mind’s eye, I see someone like Ephraim, but taller. I can’t help it. I don’t have much to go on. I wonder who he was. I wonder what it would be like to be a family of six. I wonder how different things would be. I wonder how different I would be. Miscarriage has been the most heartbreaking, confusing, jarring, baffling thing I have ever experienced. But it was all the worse because it was the loneliest thing I have ever experienced. It is not an easy loss to fathom. Even I couldn’t fathom what exactly I had lost until I had Ephraim, Clive, Anselm in my arms. It is an easy loss for others to forget. I never forget it. Tomorrow is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. If you know a woman, a family, who has experienced this kind of loss, won’t you let her know that you haven’t forgotten?
There is a little roadside market near my parents’ house, just down the road from the now-defunct Little Store (which is across from The Ugly House, which isn’t even a house at all.) It sits on a straight stretch of 31-W that you long for when you’re stuck behind someone actually following the 55 mph speed limit.
I’m always getting passed on that straight stretch of road. Worse than a tractor.
I’ve never stopped at this store–I don’t think it was around when I lived here. But we swung in today on our way home from Chaney’s. I wanted to photograph this little slice of country life.
It’s a pretty glamorous way to buy local produce. When I was a kid, you stopped on the side of the road to buy sweet corn off the back of someone’s pickup truck. This store had a fountain inside.
I just now noticed that there was sorghum for sale. Sorry, Dad, for not picking any up.
I was surprised that there was no one there, until I saw the paper on the counter. Country life, indeed.
We moved out to the farm when I was two; I have been in awe of that house for as long as I can remember. It was well-worn, then, but not run-down. It had a large front porch with a flat roof that you could go out and stand on.
We called it “The-House-Across-The-Street,” a sensible name, as we were in the habit of giving most things. The market at the crossroads was called “The Little Store”; the white structure catty-corner to it was called “The Ugly House”; the room in our house with the green carpet was “The Green Room,” and the one with gold carpet, “The Yellow Room.”
As I got older, I spent a lot of time imagining what it was like inside. Huge stone fireplaces, a sweeping, grand staircase. “Beautiful” decor as only an eight, nine, ten-year-old girl can dream up. It was almost always devoid of inhabitants, though people did live there from time to time. It had been built, I believe, by the grandparents of the man who owned the property and the fields surrounding it.
Our yard was fenced to keep the dogs and sheep away from the road, and we were not to cross over to that house. At least I assumed we weren’t, as I never did. It wasn’t our property and it wasn’t our house, and I never so much as peeked through the windows to see if what I imagined about the inside was true. Not until I was twelve, and the cat we’d had since before I was born went missing. I was asked (or it was suggested, and I obliged) to go over to the house and see if she had somehow managed to get trapped inside. So it was at twelve that I was able to do what I had been longing to do–go through the gate, cross the street, and look into that great House-Across-The-Street.
Seventeen years later I still recall that moment as one of the greatest disappointments of my life. What I saw was devastating to my dream-filled, girlish head.
There was a staircase, but not sweeping. Fireplaces, but not grand. Wallpaper peeled off the walls in great hanging sheets. Holes in the walls left the planking underneath exposed. It was filthy and falling apart. I didn’t look very long before going back across the road to our house.
I was twenty-one and a newlywed before I ever actually went inside. During a visit to my childhood home, I followed my adventurous husband across the street and into the house, almost bailing at the door when he said, ponderously, “This is just like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” Inside we found nothing but a stop sign, some trash, and one solitary armchair in an upstairs bedroom, seated in front of a window. The stairs looked ready to collapse at any moment, and I’m still wondering at why we ever climbed them and how someone didn’t get hurt.
Over the years it has continued to deteriorate. The porch was torn down, and in the process, the foundation was compromised. The paint on the front doors faded even further. The chimneys began to crumble, and a family of vultures has moved into one of them. Despite its eerie aura and silent misery, I’ve never found the place to be ominous. At least, not that I remember. But I can’t help but feel an intense sorrow when I see it–even though it’s one of my favorite places to photograph. I stick the lense of my camera through a broken window to capture the interior, and I feel sick to my stomach.
When I’m done taking pictures, Jeremy asks if I want to go look inside.
“No,” I say. “It’s just too sad.”