It was the section of the sprawling bungalow that had suffered the most neglect over the past decade. The room was flawlessly musty – blanketed in gloomy grey with cobwebs daintily floating down and swaying in response to the slight drift introduced by the door swinging open.
She stood at the entrance; hand on the knob, reluctant to take any sudden steps. The cobwebs had a way of remaining invisible until they sliced your unsuspecting eyeballs in their bid to embrace every bit of your face. Using one arm, she performed the recommended formality of carving through the air and proceeded to take two more steps in, permitting her gaze a leisurely glide over each inch of the space before her. As her sights alighted on each object, she felt nostalgia tug gently at the left corner of her mouth.
Once upon a time…
That one whisper from her mind successfully summarized all that stood before her. Naturally, no mind foreign to the setting and all housed within it could find anything appealing about it, standing there; old cassettes lay atop outdated dress ties, mismatched golf clubs and bags littered the ground where aged pieces of linoleum liaised with the grey-brown concrete to feign the appearance of a patchwork quilt. A fading, fingerprint marred trophy stood in the top compartment of the door less wardrobe to her right, looking more like a memorial of failure, while bronzed-golden picture frames displayed the past innocence of a child long aged…
Once upon a time.
What a long time it had been. Her eyes settled on the ‘rocking chair’ adjacent to her, tucked in the corner of the room where a crack ran from the ground, making a jagged climb up the wall before finally disappearing into the space behind the ceiling boards. In truth, it was just a normal chair with a base that appeared to be an imitation of a rocker – only, where you would find curved wood to aid a nice good rock, there were connected thick flat slabs planted firmly on the ground. The cushions had absorbed every bit of dust the recently past harmattan had been willing to offer but to her, the chair was still a delight to gaze upon. She stared at the seat, forming the image of herself atop it as a little girl and watching in fond amusement, her face glow with excitement as she stretched spindly arms to grip both arms of the chair, forcefully pushing her body forward and backward in futile attempts to coax the rebellious piece of furniture into imitating her movements. She’d never stopped trying to get that old chair to rock – no matter how many times she had been told it was not made to. Whenever she found it empty on visits to her father’s bookstore, she would leap happily on it and try (but fail) to rock her heart away.
What a long time it had been. Indeed.
A long time since she’d gotten to jump around and be the ‘little girl’ around her daddy. A long time since the sincere smile of the beautiful child tucked within those frames had gotten to bless anybody. It had been too long since the golf clubs strewn around conjured images of relaxation and pleasure – instead, these days, ‘weapon’ was the first word that came to fore. It had been too long since the room smelt of warmth and growth and intimacy. Too long.
She looked at an old camera, picked and replaced it after brief fiddling, and then ran her hand along the white title strips on the cassettes at the bottom of a cupboard. As she did so, her eye alighted on the other piece of furniture that came with the ‘rocking chair’ and she sighed. She had once loved being in this room. It used to have as much traffic and visitors as all the other rooms in the large house as her siblings and her would troop in and out incessantly; running errands, laying complaints, receiving discipline, sitting to listen in on bible readings and discussions or just to sleep and watch television, tucked or perched somewhere on the bed, close to mommy and daddy. She smiled and shook her head. Everything here had once been so relevant and cherished; they had all tasted glory and attention, the appreciation of many and the touch of humanity. Once this room had known life. But people grew up and all were hounded by the inevitable growth in distance, so value systems had to change.
If it were of any use, she would have apologized to the room for neglecting it. But there was little doubt that the only thing to be regretted was her failure to remember the treasures moments within it had birthed. Stepping in once again had taken her on a trip back to many flashes of laughter and tears, stories attached to every inanimate object that would be cherished for years. Walking back to the door, she thought on how easily people seemed to totally forget things that once held such strong and deep meanings; how easily people seemed to tire of other people, places, accomplishments, relationships…even life. She had stayed almost the whole year without visiting this old junkyard of a room and yet within a few seconds, had relived decades from her childhood. So it was clearly not a function of the room having no more value or potential, but of her having no more interest or willingness to sacrifice time. She wanted to sit with someone and recount stories from those years, picking up one item after another and re-learning its history and how it came to finally rest in here, dusty and forgotten. Indeed it would be nice to bring it all back to life, for an hour or two…
She stepped outside and slowly pulled the door closed, shutting the room away for another long haul. Standing there, she resolved to keep the things she loved alive for as long as she could manage. Even if she couldn’t give the room back the life it once had, at least she could remember to give her best towards sustaining other things that were yet to die.
She would find new ways to cherish the oldest things for a very very long time.