On the plane to Denver last month, I suggested to my husband that we take pictures of all the houses in which each of us had lived. Dick and I grew up, went to school, married and had children in Denver. Between the two of us and our families, the houses represented a substantial history.
We went to Denver to attend Dick's 35th medical school reunion so our minds were already on "remember whens." The photo pilgrimage to our youth and then some took us a day-and-a-half.
Driving around Denver, we enjoyed the wonderful scent of lilacs. The tulips were blooming. The waxy, turgid blossoms were white, yellow, red and a purple so deep it was almost black. There was a heavy coating of snow on the back range of the Rocky Mountains and the weather was dry and sunny.
The houses we had lived in looked smaller than we remembered, of course, but except for much larger trees in the yards, they had not changed a great deal.
Sometimes we rang the doorbells and asked permission to take pictures and other times we just hit and ran. A couple were even taken from the car window.
I knocked on the glass storm door at the frame house in which I had lived when I was in grade school. I could see a young man sitting on the couch, looking at television in the narrow living room. The television was in the same place that we used to have the radio. I seem to remember that it was a Philco, the kind that stood on its own legs. There is a clear memory of my parents sitting on either side of the radio on a Sunday afternoon, heads bent to the Philco, listening to the news that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor.
I did not tell the tall young man who lived in the house that my Aunt Edna had had a miscarriage in his back bedroom. At the time, I did not know what miscarriage meant and the grown-ups had no intention of telling me, so I looked it up in the dictionary.
Another day, I took photos of St. Luke's Hospital, where I had graduated as a registered nurse in 1952. The buildings have been closed now for many years, decayed, ghost-like. The big operating room windows on the fourth floor were still intact. How many memories I have behind those windows. I saw a lot of sunrises and sunsets there. Only an O.R. nurse could feel sentimental about an operating room.
And there, in another wing, my children were born, each in the same delivery room.
We also stopped at libraries I had known and loved as a child to leave copies of my book Kitchen Tables and Other Midlife Musings (Papier-Mache). At Decker Branch Library I was surprised that it was much smaller than I remembered. I had a vision of cathedral windows of stained glass. They were not that tall nor were they stained, but they were mullioned. At the huge new main library, the librarian said they would put my book in Western History, which took me by surprise, but then I decided I would like to be in Western History.
Dick and I had lunch one day at the Brown Palace Ship Tavern, the site of some heavy courting 42 years ago. The trout isn't $2.50 anymore, but then, I'm not 21 anymore, either.
By the time we had finished our trek, I felt complete and strong. The first 30 years of my life had been well-spent and were indeed past. There are no regrets, and I felt that a circle had been closed. I don't need to go back to Denver again, but have good memories firmly in place.
You can write to Niela M. Eliason, c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, 33731.