photo credit: i eated a cookie
As I see it:
Mr. Bertie Saunders was born in 1911 in this house where he still lives. He was the last of six healthy children in a noisy and congenial family. He was sickly as an infant and the doctor told his parents he was unlikely to live to his first birthday.
In his ninety-some years Bertie has lived to bury one great grandfather, four grandparents, his father, his mother, his stepfather, three brothers, two sisters, three wives, four children, two step-children, six children-in-law, one grandchild, and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.
He has no living relatives.
Mr. Saunders spends all his time drafting and redrafting his will, in which he leaves all his worldly goods (the house and all its contents and a coin collection worth an estimated $1.3 million) to different charities.
Bertie is ready to go as soon as Jasper, his fifteen year old cocker spaniel, makes the first move.
Ah’ve lived here a long long time…too long maybe, but ah ain’t leavin.’ Not any time soon no siree. This here’s mah place, ah earned it, and here ah stays!
There’s bin folks comin’ around here a-snoopin, a-measurin, and a plannin’ and it sure looks like they’s thinkin’ of knockin’ the whole Godforsaken pile o’ wood an’ nails down, he he…. But still. Ah aint leavin!
1787 ah came here first. Scairt witless, twelve years old an’ shiverin’ in mah shift, ah stood here on de stoop, while the ole’ massa walked around and around me, lookin’ an’ peerin’ an’ decidin’ where he gonna put me.
Ah was cryin’ for mah mamma, for I know’d I wasn’t never gonna see her again, and ah never did.
Ole’ massa, he ok. He put me to work in dem kitchens, right over the back there they was. Not there now. Dey knocked dem down long long time ago.
Hehe…. Ah won’t never forgit dat first day in dem kitchens. Dey the very next thin’ to hell on a hot summers day, for a young scairt girl, never bin in any kitchen before in her whole life…don’t know her pots from her pans, and de cookie screamin’ like a banshee, and all de other maids scurryin’ here and dere, pushin’ an’ shovin’ me outta de way. Boy oh boy, dem was hard days! Yes sir, dey was hard. I be smilin’ now, but boy dey was hard times!
But ah did good; got cookie to like me ah did. Ah worked, and ah listened, and ah did ever’thin’ ah was told, and long long time after dat……..Ah was de cookie! Hehe! Ole’ cookie, her legs dey weren’t no good no more, and so it were mah turn, and dem poor little new girls, ah screamed and ah yelled, and they was scairt just like ah was! Ah tried to be kind though, and ah always treated dem good if dey was good girls and if’n’ dey showed willin.’ That ah did suh!
Bertie was mah man, and yo never saw a finer blackfella drive a carriage; ah almost go weak at de knees just ‘memberin’ mah Bertie. Boy he was a good lookin’ fella! Dere was dat nursemaid had her eye on him, but mah Bertie only had eyes for me and we jumped over dat broom and we was tied! Gave me three big healthy boys he did. Three boys yeah. But they’s gone now, long time. Bertie gone too; just me here now. Just me.
Ole’ massa, he died, then young massa went off to war. Poor young massa, came back again he did. Came back in body, but his mind, it be gone. Just like dat. Young man, some good lookin’ too; young wife, twin boys left at home, an’ he comes back…..War. war never fixes anythin’ up. War just decides who got biggest gun.
Ah’ve seen many more massas come and go. Ah saw the slaves freed, walkin’ away. Shoulda had dere heads held high, but dey was scairt. Scairt, dey didn’t know where to go, what to do. Some wanted to stay. Dis place here, it’s all dey knew.
Ah saw more wars, with bigger guns, and more young men come back with empty eyes and broken dreams.
Ah see it all from here. Ah bin here more’n two hundred years now, an’ I don’t see me leavin now, no suh! Sometimes, when kids come here, pokin’ around, playing in the empty rooms, dey knows ah’m here, dey can feel me. Dey’s got feelin’s an’ hope and innocence. Dey’s still thinkin’ with dere hearts and not dere heads!
Dem adults dat bin here… dey don’t never see me. Dey’s only ever thinkin’ about bizzy-ness and house prices and all dat money stuff, and too bizzy bein’ bizzy to see what’s under dere noses!
Hehe! Ah’ll just set here on dis ole’ stoop in mah rocker, and ah’ll keep a-watchin’ and a-waitin’. No, ah ain’t goin’ nowhere! No siree!
Oops! Sorry, I didn’t realise it was so long!
And also sorry for pinching your Bertie’s name Rosina. I didn’t mean to, but it must have stuck in my mind after reading yours and I used it without thinking.
No worries. Bertie is honored.
When I look at this picture, I see an older lady named Gertrude, but not too old. In her seventies maybe. I see her living on the edge of a big city, in this dilapidated house, where she lived most of her adult life. She agoraphobic. She hasn’t been outside her home for some 5 years or so; she counts on the kindness of a street worker who comes once a week to bring her groceries and try to convince her to move to a shelter before the city finally takes notice and evicts her. Gertrude wasn’t always like this you know. She used to be Good Times Gertie and had a fiancé. But that was before.
I would love to spend some time and think about what happened to Gertie that caused her to retract from the world.
Who lives here? No one, not anymore. Not since 2005, since Katrina.
The house had survived many hurricanes. It survived Ivan and the legendary Camille and many before that who had no names. It stood firm as the winds blew over its roof. Occasionally the dislodged a shingle here or a shutter there. But they never blew down the house, not in a hundred and seventy years.
In the end, it wasn’t the storm itself that finished the house. It was the water. That damned water, blown inland from the Gulf, creeping up to the edges of the levees and rising further, spilling over the levees and drowning the city. The water left, eventually, pumped off by young men in blue overalls who came with their powerful pumps from far off Germany, because there was no one left in the city to do the job.
Like every house everywhere in the world, this house used to have owners. The LaRoux family has been living here for four generations now. Chris and Tonya LaRoux were the latest owners. They lived here with their two boys, a little girl and a Labrador. The LaRouxs left, when the storm came. Chris nailed the windows shut, while Tonya carried bags fulls of clothes and papers and toys for the children onto the lawn. And then they left, headed for the treacherous shelter of the Superdome. Only the Labrador was left behind. It was a clever dog, it could swim. It probably made it. As for the LaRouxs, they never came back. They’re living in Galveston now. Chris found a job in the oil industry and Tonya teaches kindergarten. The two boys go to school, the little girl to the kindergarten where her Mom works. They even got another dog from the shelter. They won’t be coming back.
But the house still waits. It stands there, mold and rot slowly gnawing away on the wooden planks, and waits. Waits for the people to come back, the city to return to the life it once had.
It’s a stereotype. The retired sea captain, lost without his sea. Captain James Seevers plans to prove them all wrong with life planned on land, without the sea, thank you very much. The list isn’t long, after all. The list he made while working the northern coast of Canada. Ice breaking. Delivering supplies. Running out of supplies. Delivering more supplies. Pretty much a life of schedules and schedules met. The new schedule will include restoring this house to its former humble beginnings. First task: the ramshackle porch. Gives new meaning to the word ramshackle, actually. It’s a heritage home, so the old ship’s planks that face the exterior must be preserved. Any new insulation will be added inside out. Quite a job. But he will do it.
The list to a happy life on land, to cracking the stereotype, is short:
1. a woman to love, who loves this Atlantic island life
2. children to love, homeschooled and cherished
3. a friend who likes to lend tools
4. keep going to AA
Condemned. One word, scrawled on a plank of driftwood in scarlet red. One word with the power to sweep up the last of her hopes and dash them against the rocks, like the tide against the rock jetty just down the beach from the ramshackle remains of a house. Anna had spent her twenties fighting the idea of finding her biological parents. In her thirties her own family kept her too busy to give biology much of a thought. Questions began creeping into the brain of forty-something Anna, as she watched her own teenage children struggle with the process of breaking away and forming their own identities. Now, in her fifties, Anna finally is at peace with the idea of locating her roots and answering some of the questions that have chewed at her psyche for years. A business trip to Boston puts her within shouting distance of the adoption agency where her records are held. She thinks herself fortunate; a fresh faced social worker named Carrie hands over the name and address of Anna’s biological mother with a minimum of digging and ceremony. However, Anna’s biological mother, Margaret O’Hanlon, now resides at Maritime Acres Rest Home, suffering from Alzheimer’s dementia. Ms. O’Hanlon only occasionally surfaces for brief moments from under the neurofibrilary tangle that has become her consciousness. Anna returns to her mother’s only listed residence in search of some physical evidence of her mother’s existance. The house, vacant now five years and left largely unprotected from the sea air and elements of coastal Rhode Island, seems to be a tangible metaphor for her mother’s mind. With a sigh, Anna tests out the bottom step, shuts her eyes, and deliberates the wisdom of obedience to driftwood and a can of spray paint.