“The door’, replied Maimie, ‘will always, always be open, and mother will always be waiting at it for me.”
― J.M. Barrie
This photo is of the backdoor at my dad’s house in Atlanta. The backdoor to the home in which I grew up. The house was built in 1959 and we moved-in in 1962. The door you see today is not, however, the original door. The original door was a typical early 60’s glass louvered number. I was so glad when they replaced that door with the current door. I was probably 10 when they made the big switch.
I always hated the louvered door. Even as a young child, it was as if I was somewhat ashamed of that original door–the nicer houses had what I thought to be “real” doors. Not only was it rather unsightly, it was never very secure as you could easily pry open and lift up the louvres. Which was good if you locked yourself out, but we must remember that this was the early 60’s, no one locked their doors!
Of course there was a screen over the louvers as this was the pre air-condition era—allowing a supposed breeze to waft through the kitchen…but who were they kidding—this was Georgia—there are no breezes in August and very few in June and July! The door was just ugly and a pain to clean. I really felt as if mom and dad had finally entered into the 20th century with the change in doors. Perhaps even at the age of 10 I understood about taste.
That door has been slammed more times than I care to recall. And there was the time one of the panes broke. I can’t exactly recall how that happened but I remember mother having to get a glass-man to come out to the house in order to chip out the broken bits and add a replacement pane. I was so afraid they were going to have to buy an entire new door…I had no idea how someone would be able to replace one of the panes. Ode to the logic of a child.
Mother always knew when my friends had walked over to the house wanting me to come out to play because she would see the top of a small head just standing, obviously outside in front of the door, simply waiting to be let in the house. Somehow Mother always knew when they were there waiting. Once we all got a little older, my freinds would just open the door, letting themselves in. Suddenly, unbeknownst to anyone, there would be 3 more kids in the house wandering around looking for me.
How many times had a date walked me to the back door to either say good night, or hope for an invitation inside? I vividly remember one particularly cool December evening. The night sky bright and magical as the stars twinkled overhead with a few slowly moving clouds. It was a wonderful late Christmas Eve, or more accurately, the wee hours of Christmas morning. My boyfriend and I were coming home from Midnight Mass. It was indeed a magical night. He walked me to the back door as I looked up at the night sky wondering where that wonderfully bright star was that had once guided those three wise men to that tiny stable. And then there was a brief kiss……
I had long since graduated from having dates walk me to the front door. As I started college, the back door seemed a more mature choice of doors. I would always peer through the door with the angle being such, peering through the kitchen, directly into the den where I could just see mother who was usually perched on the far right side of the couch. If I didn’t see her, the coast was clear.
If I did see Mom, that most likely meant she was asleep—I’d have to go in, wake her up, tell her to go to bed and then ask my date in. So embarrassing! And God forbid my date would wander in aimlessly behind me as I attempted rousing Mother, who was like the walking dead, saying the dumbest things as she basically was sleep walking and not remembering any of it the following morning…so embarrassing!
How many times did I walk out that door wishing I never had to walk back in? Those years of my brother and his growing troubles–the mental illness consuming our family. My cousins, who were truly more like brothers to me, coming to my rescue taking me out for the night—just getting away. Returning hours later, slowly, quietly opening the door, praying everyone was in bed–often Mother, on the couch, having fallen asleep, crying.
Twenty-seven years ago Mother had walked out of that door, sickly, for a trip to the doctor, who in turn sent her to the hospital. She never walked back trough the door. The night Mother died, my husband and I walked in the door. It was very late that night–it was hours after the sadness, of our having left the hospital for the last time since her illness–in order to sit vigil with Dad. The day following Mother’s death, I can’t even begin to remember how many friends poured through that door–too many to recall.
How many little hands have opened that door? First there was me and then my brother and all of our little friends. Then it was my young son coming to visit his “Pops.” And how many old hands have turned that knob? My grandmother Mimi who always opened the door with her oh so familiar “Yoo-hoo.” Or my other grandmother, Nany, trying to push the door when she needed to be pulling the door.
Today the door is locked tighter then the proverbial dick’s hat band. I have to knock and tap on the panes to get Dad or Gloria to the door. You may have noticed the doorbell having been painted over–that was years ago. I don’t even know if that thing still works. Today it was Dad who came to the door. Wow! Dad never comes to the door! I can’t tell you the last time Dad came to the door to let me in.
Today was truly a good day! “Do you think you can take Nany’s desk home today? What about the chairs to the dinning room table?” This is what greets me. They are having the hallway painted and a closet outfitted to accommodate a stackable washer / dryer so no one has to traipse up and down the perilous stairs to the basement.
And so went the afternoon. I brought up chair after chair from the depths of the basement, traversing through the back door, out to my poor unsuspecting car. Then with Dad and Gloria on one end and me on the other end, we gently maneuvered Nany’s desk out the back door, all keeping a watchful eye out for Sheba, Dad’s cat, so she wouldn’t try a quick escape.
I had an antique secretary desk, two of its drawers, four dinning room chairs and a banjo clock in my poor car. Each week I go visit Dad, I move more and more of my young world, or the worlds of both my grandmothers, out the back door– precariously transporting it all on the nerve-racking interstate drive back home, only to enter my current world through my current back door.
And so it goes—out the back of one door, into the back of another door.