The House on Birchwood
It doesn't happen much these days but in my childhood, on breezy afternoons in the spring, my grandma would open all the doors and windows and let the Carolina air flow throughout the house. I was free to go in and out at my leisure, so long as I stayed in the yard.
Most of the time, I would stand outside picking crab apples off the tree in the front yard. Some days, I'd just watch bugs crawl in and out of the rotting fruit that'd fallen to the earth. On one particular day, I grew bored of this and walked inside seeking entertainment. As I stepped in, I heard a woman's voice floating down from one of the bedrooms. I walked by the staircase and saw my grandparents' bedroom door wide open, sunlight pouring into the hallway. Music swelled behind the woman's voice as she sang longingly in a language I did not understand. Her vibrato bounced off of the walls and rode the breeze down into my ears. The notes she held were endless, and I stood and listened before going on my way.
My grandparents' love for opera and classical was nothing new. They cared very little for the noise of contemporary artists, and took great joy in easy listening or antiquated musicals. The two were deceptively intellectual and artistically-minded, qualtities I did not fully appreciate until adulthood.
The reason this sticks out is because it is the only moment I can recall in which I took the time to just....be. It was not a concious effort, simply a point in time in which there was no more than an operatic cry, a breeze on my skin and the crsip smell of spring in the air. Sometimes, I go back to this memory and am small child looking up into the hallway. Other times, I am an adult watching myself experience bliss for the very first time.
When asked about a happy place, this is where I go. I came across a passage in a Hermann Hesse novel in which hearing a symphony is described as a transcendent experience that quickly gives way to a dream-like state. When I read this, my brain shifted to that old memory, and I was forced to set the book down and revisit my early glimmers of transcendence.
Papa died five years ago. Grandma is still here. She doesn't hear so well anymore, and so their old records are in the basement collecting dust. She chills easily, and so the windows stay closed, even on temperate days.
I moved back into the house a year ago, and brought a record player of my own. I plugged it up next to Grandma's favorite chair and every once in a while, I put on something I think she'll like. Luckily, she tends to hear the music just fine. And every time she listens, I secretly hope to catch her looking up the stairs into the hallway and catch sunlight pouring from her room.