On a Saturday morning a few years ago, I responded to a hankering. I needed to free a hall closet in my house of clutter. I understood what faced me – the messiest offender found in three files buckets – as soon as I opened the door. I spied a particular grey one packed askew with folders and paper and then I delved into the vessel with abandon, plucking a few files, ready to purge the litter. Inserted within the stack were large sheets of thick white paper aged to tan, folded into untidy quarters. I held the curious parcel like a treasure in my hands before separating the folds to discover blueprints on another side. I spread the poster-sized drawing flat on the floor then squatted to read the details of the reverse print. My girlhood home was illustrated in blueprints. The building commissioner from the village had given his approval, stamped September 4, 1964. I was two.
I was taken aback by my discovery. Where did this come from? How did I come to find this? Why now?
We were lot #18 on Carlisle Avenue in Colony Point. William D. Murphy was the architect . . . ¾” Driftwood panelling in the family room, (“paneling” was misspelled) . . . Donley Brothers Dutch Oven Door in the fireplace, below the mantle. There were views of the inside including the basement and crawl space, however, there was no attic. I was disappointed that artifacts of my ancestors, accompanied by dust and cobwebs, telltale signs of age, would not be found there. Old family photos were few. Letters bundled by a single string revealing my family and their relationships were nonexistent. I wanted to discover a rich heritage, a connection that might have been squirreled away in hidden corners of the basement. As I followed the thin white lines with my fingertip, a magic wand, I drew a circle engaging the contents to blossom with life. I was no longer seeing empty space.
At that time of this discovery, I was a couple of drafts into my memoir manuscript. Basics were written, scenes, characters, memories but I lacked details of which I knew were needed to bring sound to my voice and an invitation to my readers to join me on my story’s journey. Yes, I remembered my home, the black, red and cream colors in the living room, the black and white checkerboard floor in the entryway and flashy red carpeting snaking up the stairs and how sun spotlighted the right rooms like lights illuminating scenes on a stage thanks to a decorator who created the perfection Mom demanded. But I wanted to remember more, the relationships among my family of 4, the lessons learned and the disappointments suffered as record of my growing up. I wanted to retrieve memories of connections of home and family that disengaged quickly. The blueprints unfolded in white print, turning pages to show detailed floor plans, once empty, then filled to tell my story.
I was back in my childhood home where I saw colored details in the many rooms. A pink and green wallpapered mural provided a backdrop to the pink wrought-iron kitchen set centered in the breakfast nook and made me feel like I was dining in a fancy cafe. A large floral print in shades of green on paper hugged the dining room walls. “No sliding on the wood floors, you’re going to get splinters,” Mom would yell to Tim and me. Socked-feet were mandatory for speed to escape when chasing each other. Mom’s statement was serious enough for me to stop, questionable enough for me to examine the bottoms of my feet for loose brown specs imbedded in the sock’s white stitching. I resumed sliding – when I confirmed there were no wood fragments– all the way into Timmy. We were bumper cars, knocking each other off our feet, disabling our slide progress.
The more I studied the blue pages, the more the beginning of my life story was revealed. This disclosure was necessary for my memoir as an anchor to my theme. I quickly understood my questions as I paused to consider what I really held in my hands. I had found the answers there. I don’t remember how I came to have the blueprints in my possession after all these years but I was meant to have them, to rediscover my home and its connection to it and to my family where detachments grew within the confines of my red brick house so long ago.