What Remains To Be Said Part II
As the crimson velvet curtains started to rise the audience lowered their conversations. Entering stage right was the maestro in black tuxedo with tails. His hair completely white almost to his shoulders, there was a shiny bald spot at the top. He walks to the center, his eyes open wide with intensity, completely stone faced, he stares at the audience for at least ten seconds. Starting from right to left, he makes eye contact with those who catch his attention, then he breaks into a smile and bows down. The audience is clapping; overjoyed. He turns his back to the audience and opens his arms slowly extending his large hands like a black butterfly. It was a waltz between the violins and the piano, the maestro closes his eyes feeling the the tempo and melody in his entire body; it is simply perfect and mellifluous. The performance now recorded I am presently listening to as I write.
Going through her things in storage, she and her son are taking stock of the past. Some of the things gathering dust and a particular smell. I remember the smell so well. A large brown leather chest with old clothing inside. Dresses that could have been sold at a vintage store. The leather and smell of older shoes mixed with mothballs. The large chest kept in the single room where she stored all the canned fruit. It had a pleasant smell to it. It was the smell of the past.
He remembers now going through his mother’s boxes; one box containing a chandelier and another box containing a box of cornflakes from 1953. It’s hard to part with those things, thinking you might regret it or thinking you can use it sometime in the future. Most people have a box or a drawer or a closet or a room filled with boxes of things you just can’t part with.
“Oh yes, I’m going to frame this.” she said. I could tell it was something to look forward to. Together looking at The New York Herald paper from 1923, her father and mother were in the front page looking quite dapper and chic. “She must have been pregnant with you.” he said to his mother. She looked at the picture of her mother and father and there was a brief private moment when she paused for a fraction of a second. It was in her eyes capturing this sadness. The thought remained private. Instead she pointed out the beautiful white dress her mother was wearing carrying a parasol. I assume her mother’s fashion sense was passed onto her, as it was for my mother and I. My mother could dress like Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I’ll never forget the flare teal patterned dress and those teal suede high heels. I always pictured them, her and my stepfather as Anthony Quinn and Ava Gardner. Still remembering the picture of my mother’s hair up in a french bun, my stepfather in a suit.
Remembering my mother and I going through her things. I remember encouraging her to remodel her entire house, now that he was in a health care facility for a longer period of time. It was an open window of opportunity and it would turn out to be a major event for four months. Adding an additional room off the dining room for my mother to push the wheelchair my stepfather would eventually come to use. Everything had to be put in storage for the contractors to start tearing down everything except for the walls; they gutted her entire house.
Perhaps in some way she felt exposed as well. I had found at least a dozen of old plastic cups and there were other things that she kept. I asked my mother, “Should we throw these away?” She was upset and barked “No, Lorie”. Realizing that she was completely overwhelmed with the task at hand, having to put all her things in storage.
Gone were the old cabinets in the kitchen. Gone was the old fashion paneling on all the walls. Gone was the green, blue, gold, and red shag carpet. It didn’t take them long to start tearing everything down except for the hole in my bedroom. That never got fixed until the contractor refilled and painted over it and I hiding it so well until all my past came rushing forward. Everything was gone, except for the memories still lingering on. After moving to California when I came home to visit, I usually stayed in a hotel room in Santa Fe. I needed this space all to myself, and the privacy, and I couldn’t bear to listen to my mother being terribly upset with my stepfather after he came home from the hospital very debilitated.
Together, he and his mother were looking at a framed picture of her deceased husband. She said, “This must have been when Daddy was in a play.” Then she asked, excited. “What’s this?” I could tell by the smile on her face it was something to look forward to. It was one of Carter’s drawings as a child; her other son. Remembering I had saved the drawings that my son drew when he was a young boy. I still have the Christmas decorations he made of crepe paper and glitter when he was probably only four. I always hang them on the Christmas tree.
Their family had a complete history dating back to the sixteen hundreds. The fortune was built by Cornelius born in 1794-1877 and he was pretty remarkable. He started with one ship and by the time he was finished with shipping, he had more ships than the US Navy and more money than the US Treasury. But that didn’t stop him, nor was he satisfied, Cornelius was a true pioneer and driven. He built his second transportation empire by connecting independent rail lines into the New York Central System. All the money he made; he kept. Before 1913, there were no taxes and enormous fortunes were perpetuated and extended for many generations to come.
She explained to her son that her mother was only eighteen and her father was probably forty three when she was born. In those days, whether in the city or a small town, older men married woman half their age or younger. Sometimes already promised to a particular family since the child is born; usually a girl. After her mother and father were married, they had taken off for a six month hiatus leaving her behind with the nanny. In those days people with money, the affluent aristocrats, could afford to do this and many of them did leave their children to bond with a nanny or a nurse. She explained to her son, “If you think of it in the time-frame as far as history goes, people who had families in a certain economic group, they didn’t see much of their children. They had nurses and nannies and my mother was eighteen when I was born. So for a long time, it wasn’t real to me that there was a mother and father. I didn’t know what that idea was; so to speak.”
That’s quite significant, realizing she didn’t understand the concept of having a mother and a father who were rarely there by her side. She wasn’t abused; but neglected. I understood the concept of a mother and father only to well and it seemed as I grew older something didn’t feel right. Everyone in the family hid the secret and I in turn felt different because of this secret. Maybe it explains why my aunts and uncles were always so over joyed and affectionate with me. Did they feel sorry for me? In those days people didn’t get divorced; especially in small towns. It was unheard of. There was a certain shame associated with a divorce and if you were Catholic, well that was even worse. I understood the concept of a mother and father when I was probably four. My mother and father were usually trying to kill each other the majority of the time with spiteful arguments and name calling. So the concept to me as a child at best was daunting. I think I would have traded places with her in an instant; given the chance.
As far as the family history or lineage there’s only one rumor that circled among the family and maybe even in the small town. I was too young to appreciate such a ghastly rumor. Apparently, there was a great great great grandfather who was a priest. Well in that case we were the holiest family in the small town or we were the most disgraced due to our great great great grandfather’s desires. Then one cousin traced back our grandfather’s last name to Greece.
What Remains To Be Said Part II
Natalie Keshing, Editor-in-Chief of natswritings.com or nataliekeshing.com
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