Saturday, July 26, 2008

Chestnuts and Charmers

During our recent vacation, my father, husband and I drove down to Knoxville, Iowa. My family lived in Knoxville in the 70's, when I was just a youngster. I wanted to go back and verify some of the bits and pieces of memory that I have from that time. Pieces like my kindergarten school, our old house, the big chestnut tree in the backyard, etc. We found my kindergarten, found our old house, and the big chestnut tree is still standing. Oftentimes I wished I could climb that tree, but I was much too small, and too scared. I settled for sitting on the red swingset underneath it, and trying to crack open the large chestnuts that would rain down from its branches.

Another one of the bits and pieces that we found was the house that belonged to my daycare lady, Mrs. Zoutte. She was our daycare person before 'daycare' became commonplace. My younger sister and I would go there during the day while my older siblings were in school, and while my mother was doing errands and community stuff. Maxine Zoutte lived in a small white house with her husband, Louie, on a corner lot in Knoxville.

I remember their circular dial phone hanging on the kitchen wall. It had a small red plastic stick-thing for dialing. Apparently she didn't like using her fingers. I also remember her three-wheeled bicycle that she would use for going downtown for shopping. I remember their davenport in their front room, only because she called it a davenport when I could plainly see that it was a sofa.

Mrs. Zoutte also had a huge collection of 'Charmers'. These were one-paneled newspaper cartoons that tried to relay inspirational and feel-good messages. For years she had cut them out from the daily newspaper and kept them in shoeboxes in one of her dresser drawers.

I remember their claw-foot bathtub, their porch swing, and sitting at their kitchen table eating lunch. I remember wetting the bed when I was having a nap, and how angry Mrs. Zoutte was. I remember when my sister Kathy had a seizure and they had to rush her to the hospital.

Mr. and Mrs. Zoutte never had any kids. They were probably in their late fifties when we knew them, and they have long since passed away. When we found their old house during our trip in June, it was a very strange feeling. First of all, the house looked much much smaller than I remembered it. I was expecting that would happen, but it still surprised me. Secondly, the house was much the worse for wear. I'm not sure that anyone was living in it anymore, but the grass
was unmown, garbage was piled up, and the roof, doors and windows were in disrepair.

This house, that the Zouttes lived in and cared for, and that I visited, is not the same. I know that things don't stay the same. But when they don't, and when I'm face to face with that fact, it makes me feel very, very old. Seeing Mrs. Zoutte's house now, overgrown and forgotten ... I don't know. It all seems so long ago, and somehow not even real. All that's left is my memory, just a few bits and pieces jumbled together.

Is this how it will be for my children and grandchildren? Will their memory of me fade after my passing, seem somehow less real, become overgrown and forgotten?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Such a tender, insightful post. But, it's only a house... and it's very clear by the memories you shared that Mrs. Z is definitely not forgotten!