& the birthday
It is an unseemly sixty degrees. One hell of a temperature for November. And sure, the road’s socked in with fog. Car beams must search for the road edge. Missed rendezvous with ditches twice. The last in the curve of Winding Road less than a hundred feet from my lane. Find the side of the road with your lights. Stay to the left of it. Entirely to the left of it. And hope to hell, nobody else is doing the same.
Its often like this in spring. The rains come and the weather warms. It’s damp but winter gets cheated a bit. The air seems opalescent white. Too warm for the fire. Too murky to do nothing. There’s always mud on one’s shoes. The cats make paw prints across the kitchen floor. A rather typical Bucks County spring. Only, well, its the day before Thanksgiving. Approaching winter solstice. Unseemly.
Not only is it sixty degrees at eight in the evening, it is Jere
Knight’s birthday. Another cantankerous but charming Scorpio.
She has reached eighty-five. Her son: Jeff and his wife: Barbara have put together a small gathering. Mostly for nearby friends.
The fog is joined by a slight mist which seems to add a bit of visibility. To the winding decent down Ghost Mountain to her home for three generations: Spring House Farm which coincidentally, is on Springhouse Lane.
The farm house windows make halos in the fog. At the end of the lane. A place to pull over and stop awhile. To loosen one’s fingers from the steering wheel. Unclench the teeth.
A bit earlier, with proper advance timing, Barbara and Jeff stole Jeres address book. Like the key to some old Castle keep, it was opened and copied, so the interlopers could enter and work at their own pace. And work they did, writing to all of Jere’s friends. Asking for greetings and reminiscences from that long portrait gallery in the hallway of her farm field palace. Lit by candle and street light, with all its rooms and dusty drawers. A hallway getting longer and longer with the years. Too long to go back. If it was possible at all. One can only return by other means.
The time machine is about six inches thick. Apparently made of wood. Gray pages bound with a leather thong. The cover,hand painted by a Norwegian friend of Jeff and Barbara’s isabout the size of the New York City phone book. The weightis at least the same. And inside, page after page. Like someNorthern commissar: “Jere Knight …. I bring you greetings …….” From the past which you have lived but surely do not own. Her friends have gathered to watch.
Inside it careens down Jere’s hillside. Copies of old letters, written by Jere on Eric Knight’s letterhead and those of Springhouse Farm. The type is handset. Block lettering. Eric and Jere’s names to the left. Each fully printed. “Eric Knight.” And underneath. “Jere Knight.” And larger, in the center is: “Springhouse Farm. Bucks County, Pa.” to the right: Telegraph: Quakertown, Pennsylvania.
A clipping of Jere as a WAC in London during world war II. from some LIFE magazine, I think, captioned “the handsomest WAC in London averaging two dinner invitations per day.” A note and signed photograph from Roddy MacDowell, who acted in Lassie Come Home, Eric Knight’s masterwork. And still more letters yet to be bound. Memories of nights in Greenwich Village. Of visits to Polish painters and malt scotch. Oh, its never all there, of course. But enough of it is. And there Jere sits. Looking through it. The incense of fine memories gracing her face.
On her rocker, in the summer kitchen, downstairs at Springhouse Farm. Surrounded by friends, present and before. Dressed in the blue her mother told her matched her eyes.
All, a sort of thank you note to my friends Jere Knight and Barbara & Jeff Lindtner … as once written on hand made paper with a fountain pen. We remain friends.
© h scott heist 20/SplinterCottage.com.
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