Monday, January 16, 2012

EMPTY HOUSES

EMPTY HOUSES

My aunt Margaret always said that she didn’t like Thomas Kincade’s paintings.

It wasn’t because of any lack of artistic merit, either. It was a matter of perspective.

“There is no place in the real world,” she declared roundly, “where the windows are all lit that uniformly.”

I wasn’t listening, the first time that she said it. That is, I had been listening, but stopped when I heard her say Thomas Kincade. He was suddenly popular again – and not just with tourists in places like here in Cape May, where overpriced galleries cater to those desperate to bring home a souvenir from the Jersey shore. That season, he was everywhere you turned, on plates and in gift packs and even on television, with those saccharine village winter scenes and sterile wilderness pictures. I had really had enough.

So I wasn’t listening all that closely when she said that thing about the windows.

But there was something there, some deeper meaning lurking behind the remark, something not immediately visible, not immediately identifiable. I didn’t catch it in that moment, but her words crept up on me later, when I was carrying out the second-to-last box from my house on Lafayette Street, walking down the familiar curved footpath for almost the last time. I shoved the box into the already well-packed backseat of my car and, breathless from exertion, turned to face the house.

And light was shining uniformly from all the windows.

So it’s just a matter of perspective, I told myself, thinking of Aunt Margaret. Maybe the uniformity goes with the emptiness. That was certainly what I was feeling, though I was spending an inordinate amount of time telling myself that it was not so. That I didn’t, I wouldn’t, miss Jonathan. That none of that mattered anymore, his abrupt decision to move to New York City with – cliché of clichés – his secretary; his easy dismissal of the house we had both worked so hard for, that we had told each other was the perfect home, that was now standing empty, waiting for the next couple who would also, no doubt, tell each other that it was the perfect home.

For them, maybe, the words might be real. I walked slowly back up toward the house, looking at those bright windows and remembering my tattered childhood copy of The Velveteen Rabbit, and the story of how toys became real through love. We’d loved that house, Jonathan and I, and that was what had made it real: not the emptiness of it now, not the light in every window. There had been love, and there had been a home, and there had been happiness. Maybe there even would be all of those things again for me, someday.

Just not now.

Margaret was right, after all. Real houses don’t have light shining uniformly from all the windows. And maybe real people don’t experience happiness uniformly, either.

But when we’re lucky enough to catch it ... it’s a very bright thing.

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Author bio:
Jeannette Angell is an award-winning novelist and playwright whose work has appeared in 15 countries and has been translated into 12 languages. She lives and works in an old sea captain's house at the tip of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. More about her at www.JeannetteAngell.com.

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