The House on Herthum Road
SUNY Jefferson
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The House on Herthum Road

Diona Southcott

I saw it for the last time through the eyes of the photographer. He couldn't see my cousins standing there. His pictures were empty. But I blink and I'm there in the kitchen, talking with my uncle. You have to say "excuse me" to move anywhere. I guess that's what happens when your life and love multiply into 17 grandchildren. I thought I left a sleeping bag under the chairs at the island, but I don't see it there now. Somebody must have moved it, maybe tidying up for these pictures. I'll have to find it again before dark, so I can make up a bed on the porch.
The photographer moves on before I am ready, to another room that echoes with his footfalls and my memories. How can he capture every curve and corner, and yet none of the shadows which look our way? I've never seen the basement so still, so quiet. The "Bless this Mess" plaque is missing from the wall. And so, in fact, is the mess. I see the children, though, rolling trucks through the thick carpet, building Lincoln Logs on the pool table, arguing over who gets to play Sega next. For a brief moment my heart eases with contentment, but with a click, they vanish.
What's going on here, anyway? How will anyone understand what kind of a place is if they don't see a pile of shoes at the door? Or a deck of cards dealt around the oriental rug, ready for a vicious game of spoons? Or how the picnic table outside can double as a refrigerator during Thanksgiving? I'm surprised there's not a pie waiting on it right now.
As the sun gleams off an unnaturally pristine floor, the photographer angles for an all-encompassing shot, but I can hardly see between the bodies of my remembrances. I can't shake the flickering shadows that entwine with this house like its own soul. The laughter of adults in the living room, the creak of steps on the stair. The smell of turkey from the kitchen, a dish of nuts always on the counter. My own existence is like a whisp and a whisper among these; the endurance of my life hardly more than that of the dew on a blade of grass outside.
Too quickly, we're done. The session's over. The photographer got what he came here for but I... I guess I have to come to grips with the fact that what I'm looking for is gone. It will never return to this house. What I'm wanting left the moment Grandpa stood up from that hospital bed to follow Jesus home.
Perhaps this, too, has only ever been a whisper and a shadow, this house on Herthum Road. A reflection of where we are bound, a rumor of things to come. Although it be through a mirror dimly, the restless soul knows its true home, and it is not in a silhouetted past, but in the eternity of an undying Love.
He's gone on to meet it and so, someday, shall I.