By Anita Kestin
PROMPT — If only ...
Every time I returned to the Inn where I was staying after seeing my children at their universities, I went by the House. In the end, I photographed the house in many lights: when dusk had just fallen, at night, and during the day, but, to me, the house was always most beautiful at night. It looked like the houses I saw in New Orleans many years ago with their long, lazy porches. In front, beside the three stairs that led to the porch stood a curving tree. The tree curved sharply to the right and then veered leftward, then split sharply again as its branches and tendrils traveled and clutched at the top of the porch, ultimately stretching from one end of the porch to the other.
The front door was made of heavy wood. Hydrangea blossoms in the periwinkle color I have always loved covered the front garden in the summer. In fall, the flowers turned muted shades of white and brown and palest blue. In the snow of winter, some blossoms still lined the front, visible as the light from the front porch pierced through their dry, translucent petals.
At night, the lights shone from within the house and I could see bookshelves and lamps, a magazine splayed upon a table, and sometimes a candle on a mantle. I have never seen a person there. The part of the room visible from the sidewalk was lived-in but orderly. Who lived there? Do they live there still? I always imagined interesting conversations, the air calm and still, evenings spent reading, smells wafting from the kitchen.
I return often to look at my photographs of the House, now in wonder. I have not traveled that route in some time. That place belongs to a time when we thought we were all healthy and when, looking back, the sadnesses seem small.
Anita Kestin, MD, MPH, has worked in academics, nursing homes, hospices, and locked wards of a psychiatric facility. She's a daughter (of immigrants fleeing the Holocaust), wife, mother, grandmother, and progressive activist. She is now attempting to calm nerves and stave off longing for family reunions by writing (memoir, short fiction, and nonfiction). She writes from Providence, RI.