When I was a little girl,
I used to visit my grandmother’s house in Lexington, Kentucky.
An old converted farm house that she was raised in herself.
Surrounded by acres of dewy grass and a creek you had to drive through
to even get within 300 feet of the front porch.
Chicken coop in the back yard and a family graveyard
just up the holler.
That house was a young poet’s dream…
Full of secrets and hidden treasures.
A greenhouse for a growing imagination.
Back in the old days when someone died the family would lay out
the dead bodies in the living room so people could come and pay their respects.
I always wondered if the house was haunted and that my grandma
had a secret pact with the ghosts that they could live there if they
didn’t try to scare me.
I wouldn’t put it past her.
I would spend lazy afternoons searching nooks and crannies of the old house
trying to find glimpses of my family’s history,
glimpses of a past life.
A life I would never get to see with my own eyes.
One thing that gnawed at my curiosity was an old trunk
that sat in a guest bedroom,
I guess I spent enough years pestering my grandma to let me look
inside the magical secret trunk and she finally gave in.
Maybe she was just waiting until I was of a certain age…
maybe she had planned to let me look all along.
Either way I remember the day we opened that big trunk.
On a sunny afternoon in the country with nothin but time.
I remember the way it smelled, like the way pages of an old book smell inside of a library.
100 years of family history at my fingertips.
As I sorted through the pages and pictures,
old report cards and doctors notes,
I got the sense that my grandma was all of a sudden willing,
if not wanted to talk about all of these things.
It was like she was re-reading the pages in her history book that she had buried so long ago.
A past has a funny way of finding it’s way back to you.
Whether on purpose or accident,
its a story all one’s own.
Going through the history books with my grandma made me feel like I
had been given the gift of perspective.
Perspective of how much can happen in one lifetime.
History had been given a whole new meaning in my young mind.
I suddenly realized how important it was that I knew who’s veins my blood came from.
What they thought,
A future is not possible without a past.
My curios creativity, if you will, was shaped by these discoveries…
And I haven’t stopped digging since.
That house and the trunk of secrets is long gone now, though still in the family
and I dream of returning one day to find pieces of my childhood scattered about the hard wood floors,
tucked tightly in the white linens that line all the guest beds,
and down the creaky stairs to the dark basement where the ghosts live.
I can’t help but envision myself as a grandmother,
old with long gray hair,
calm yet with a steady note of sarcasm,
watching my namesake grow and understand how they came to be.
And I hope one day I will go through a big treasure trunk full of
history and mystery with them and they will understand life as it was,
and they will know me,
and a tale as old as time will continue on,
inside a big,
trunk of secrets.
*Photo taken by me of the old Sutro Baths in San Francisco