Doomsday Greatly Exaggerated

Dec31Here it is, December 22, 2012, and we are still here. No surprise, that. The notion that the Mayan Calendar predicted the end of the world was something of a leap. But, it certainly did catch on as a marketing gimmick. I think there were a lot of End of the World parties. A lot of booze consumed. Good for the bottom line of drinking establishments that were willing to fly in the face of fate. That the Mayans themselves did not seem overly concerned should have been a clue to the rest of us. Nonetheless, the general mocking and sneering was somewhat disconcerting. I think some of that was pushback against a lingering uneasiness over the whole notion of Armageddon. I wasn’t worried at all, of course. Though I am a bit concerned now, however, as I notice that the calendars from my bank, my mechanic and my local market all end on the same day in less than a fortnight. And, again, many parties are planned.

The Sound of the Screen Door Banging

I went back into the house from our screened porch and pulled the wooden screen door closed. You have to pull it because a) it doesn’t have a spring to do it for you, and b) it needs a bit of sharp tug because it binds at the bottom. Its lack of substance causes it to close with more of a slap than a bang. Since I apparently was not standing in the place where I was, I heard the door close as though someone else had shut it. Perhaps in the way my neighbors hear from their patio from where they can’t see the door. Then, while in that state somewhere between detached doer and disinterested third party, I heard just as clearly the sound of a wooden screen door from almost sixty years past.

Old wooden screen door

photo by Robert Linder

We lived in the fifth row house from the corner and the Smiths were in the twelfth house. In summer, multiple times a day, Mrs. Smith would step out of her kitchen onto the back porch which overlooked the common driveway behind our row. Obeying the command of its spring, the screen door would slap shut just as she would yell over the railing, “Mariaaaa-anne. Bobbbb-by!” In a second the door would slap shut again so confident was she that her children would be sucked by return air into her trumpet and deposited at her feet without delay. These sounds didn’t seem to come from anywhere, they were simply everywhere. And for all time.

The Smiths’ screen door, my mother’s squeaky pulley line, the factory buzzer at noon, the Angelus at six on a Sunday — all sounds of normalcy. Anchors that held our lives in place, early GPS points on an aural map. Things unremarkable at the time and barely missed when they were no longer. And yet, indelible!