Listening to: "Million Reasons" by Lady Gaga
Outside: Night's fallen; the last raindrops sleep in their puddles
I have been bracing myself for this for months and months. Because I live 5,000 miles away, unable to sit in a car sobbing at the end of the driveway, wracked with remembering, I had to satisfy myself with trips to the bathroom at work, in which my grief visited me privately, fully and relentlessly. And unable to let the event pass without some kind of ceremony, I wrote and mailed the new owners a letter. Here it is.
Dear New Owners of Bucklandville,
First off, welcome to your new home!
And secondly, this is also to say how much your new home means to me, a former Bucklandville resident. (This is what we came to call the wide swath of woods/lawn/pool gorgeousness over the years.) It's been more than ten years since I actually lived there, having moved across the Pond to begin my life in England in September of 2006 at the age of twenty-three, but its walls - inside and out - defined my world ever since I was three. I have carried close to my heart my wealth of memories since the day I left. (I’m not going to lie – this isn’t easy for me to write. I have done much writing, because writing is my way of processing, of finding that single exquisite truth in the complex tangle of life. )
Below is a journal entry, the last one I wrote at Bucklandville. I wrote it during our Christmas visit, for my own catharsis, but also to share with you a little bit about what your home meant (and continues to mean) to me.
May you and especially your children find the same magic within its walls as I did. I know it’s in good hands. I hope it paints their imaginations in vibrant colors. I hope they love soaring across the lawn like I did as a child in the summer dusk, running so fast they fly. Here's to a new generation of lightning bugs and tag-playing nights.
V. L. Buckland
November 29, 2016
A Light in the Attic
To borrow the title of Shel Silverstein’s beautiful collection of poems – nothing sums it up better. Ah, Bucklandville, the first place I ever really lived. The strangeness of the fact and feeling that I’m sitting here, among plush oatmeal carpet and slanted walls, in this bright, empty cavern of what’s now called a Bonus Room. In what used to be the attic.
Gone are the unfinished plywood shards of attic flooring, the pink toxic cotton candy puffs of the insulation we were never to touch, and the shadows that sharpened and blanketed the corners and boxes and stacks and rows and rows of things, all the things that made up our lives. The lives of my mom, my dad, my sisters and me. All the stuffed animals, dim-eyed in the dusty dusk under a bare lightbulb or two, closed off, stored. The alien Snoopy sleeping bags, their navy blue slickness turned black amongst wafting cobwebs. The sawdust smell of all of it, pervading it, catching your breath in the winter freeze, in the summer swelter. All of the things I couldn’t see, all the things I didn’t understand. Twenty or thirty years’ worth of construction business taxes in those boring white sheet-covered boxes, looming like the hull of a moored ship along one back wall. The retro arched nickel-plated lamp, the tall one that reached over you like a giant’s arm reaching past you, the lamp that once graced my mom and dad’s bedroom, the kind you snapped on and off with your foot.
|From small beginnings great things grow: August 1985. |
Bucklandville was nothing but my parents' blue van and an empty lot.
|November 6, 1985: Bucklandville takes shape. Built by my dad himself, owner of Buckland Construction. |
The first house on the street. A sun-dappled bicycle ride from Geist Lake, back then still swampland and mystery.
|Rough Grade: July 1986. My sister, Nicki, and I, shirtless and gleeful in the dust.|
|1986 Flourishes: the porch goes in. In our matching Indianapolis Zoo t-shirts, |
Nicki and I claim our new territory.
|Our new stairs! OMG we love stairs!|
Now all of that Attic Past is reduced, gone, until a single old table and four chairs are left. This table, my step-mom Linda’s antique, is the only thing in this now clean and somewhat lonely room. (Lonely now, and waiting, patient for a new family’s bed and blankets and things). This antique table, glazed and round, sits next to a window with the grandest, richest view in Indiana. In the Midwest. Perhaps the world. Its view, the light that comes in on this November afternoon, is the light in the attic.
I look and look out this window charged with my childhood. How many windows do you look through in your life? And why? To escape where you are, if even for a moment? To remind you where you are, to remind yourself what’s beyond these walls? This window, here, is a window freshly made, bordered in white, which goes directly into my past. I see the tree Jenny once stood beneath, pushing me on our first swing in 1986. I see my three-year-old self, tow-headed and intent, squatting on the dirt, ruffling up dust in pursuit of a mud pie. I see a different view now, what the birds might have seen, fifteen years ago, when we labored up the sledding hill among the Christmas run-way lights in our snow suits, swish-swish-swish with our sleds bobbing at our heels, aching for another ride. I see our Cliffhanger moments, screaming for Gabe, crying for a lost teddy bear.
Little three-year-old Lena down there this morning, the soft shuffle of wet leaves, me walking her along a great rotting log, supporting her weight.
The woods that’s in my dreams.
|My sister Jenny pushes me on our first swing. Circa 1986.|
I can see the bare patch where our jungle gym once stood, grass grown now over its invisible wooden feet, the blue protective plastic sheath over the chains as our swings creaked, creaked just one more time, just five more times. I can see the playhouse side-on, now decorated for Christmas and, at last, child-friendly (no studded nails, bare-walls finished, weathered trunk, with its sentient snapping lid, removed), its Christmas lights waving as if waving hello or waving goodbye, or asking me to come and see, or telling me it’s time to leave.
|Can she hear the whispers of ghost stories we used to tell?|
Lena visits my old playhouse at Bucklandville,
November 28, 2016.
And beyond, just out of view, the pile of construction equipment (sawhorses, tarps, big buckets of whatever) next to Dad’s detached garage. The pile of stuff that’s always there, always been there. The work always among the play, the adulthood rubbing up to childhood. The missing trees, the little battered 35 ¼ playhouse mailbox gone, the autumn leaves gone. The flush of youth, gone. My face in the newly remodeled bathroom, gauging myself in the mirror, my eyebrows and nose and eyes. I blame the fresh lighting but deep down I know it’s just me. My thirties, my sleepless nights, my years of anxious hope of motherhood and publishing life catching up with me. The wrinkles that come when I smile or cry. The flaws of my face. And that’s okay, I tell myself, biting my lip, afraid; that’s life.
I look out this window and already, like a ghost, I’m hungry for it:
Those squeals of the summer, the shouts in the snow, mayapples tapping our knees as we run down the hill (now it’s a jungle), around the corner, bike reflectors flashing past, the dinosaurs that chased us the year Speilburg made my Jurassic dreams come true.
The woods, forever, that made my dreams come true.
|Bucklandville in Technicolor: September 2015|
I tap away on my dad’s laptop now in what was once the attic, still doubting it, still not deserving it, still not believing it, that life can flip-flop, can change this much. As my little girl naps in her big bed down the hall, in my long-ago little girl room, her fist still crammed in her eye. What it’s doing to my heart, this goodbye.
The jetlag catches up in this rare moment of quiet. Just me, a table and a laptop and a view.
Unseen squirrels clutch trees and flick their tails, encouraging.
November trees against the sky. The crows where they used to congregate, and, when the time was right: fly.
Here’s to Bucklandville, Sledding Hill, and Attic of my Youth: I will miss you -
(Cake-faced birthdays. Swimming races and campfire marshmallows. Halloween parties, makeup and candy. Reading under a blanket with my best friend. Our garage as a rollerskating rink. Chicken pox and my first crush. This first place I ever really lived.)
|Daughters of the Next Generation: My childhood best friend, Kassie, and I|
in my old room, with our girls Maizy and Lena.
December 4, 2016.
|In love with the woods, forever friends: Maizy and Lena.|
December 4, 2016.
Thank you, Bucklandville, for the time we had, for the millions of stories you’ve given me to tell.
Thank you for helping me get to know myself so well.
Thank you for being my universe, sun and sky.
|Lena and I and the turning of the tide: Geist Lake's waves as we wish it farewell.|
Child pulls me along like Time itself.
She is my faith in the future when I lack it -
when I need it the most.
I go willingly, trusting her grasp.
December 5, 2016