I’m a time traveler of sorts. You see, the other morning something strange happened. Alone on the farm, I woke up to nothing. A blanket of silence had enveloped my whole house, serving as gatekeeper to the outside world. The early birds knocked against the silence with their singing, only to have their calls return to them dejected. An unseen conductor waved his baton and a symphony of silence played all around me.
In a daze, I wandered through the house. Time had stopped, perhaps tired from its relentless march through the eons. As I stepped lightly across new carpet and worn wood, afraid I was going to break the tenuous magic of the moment, I began to see memories all around me. Infinite moments came crashing through my consciousness.
In my room I see many younger versions of myself dive into books on my bed. I am restless physically, fidgeting and rotating, but mentally lost in some far-off world. Racing through night and day, I hear words traded between top and bottom bunk occupants. An older brother, Josh, shares with me random musings. A sister’s eventual husband and I grow closer.
Back in the present, I peek into my brother’s room and am thrown around the past. I see Christmas mornings where a college-aged Josh is the last to wake up, blatantly refusing to adjust to a different time-zone than Stanford. I witness his shelves rearranging priorities: first brandishing soccer trophies but then moving to souvenirs from journeys around the world.
I mosey into my sister’s room and suddenly bridesmaids are all around me, helping my sister prepare for her wedding day. I look out her window and see her husband with groomsmen in tow walking towards the grand tree where they were to be married. I catch the faces of my brother and I among the groomsmen: proud and in a place of profound peace and joy. The wedding party fades and I hear my sister’s obnoxious oboe doing scales and an unkind voice - my own - telling her to be quiet. She laughs but then repeats, dedicated.
Emboldened by these forays into the past, I continue to explore the memories scattered throughout the house. Walking down the stairs I see many iterations of my brother, sister, and I scooting downwards in a Christmas ritual, cascading like the end of a computer solitaire game.
I descend yet again into the basement and peer around in the emptiness. The ping-pong table, still occupying its normal spot, becomes animated with players. My brother and I trade hits and conversation, losing track of time for hours. Over by the TV, movies, TV shows and video games flash by in the darkness. The people watching and playing rotate in and out, but when my mom appears she is always on the love seat. I find this fitting. The groomsmen appear again, sharing a quiet moment together before they head up the stairs for the wedding ceremony.
I follow the groomsmen upstairs and in the living room I smile as I see my grandfather napping on the ground with one of my dogs. My grandmother is on the couch with a book and a crossword puzzle. They vanish to be replaced by huge soccer ball beanbags and game consoles spread across the floor, with eager brothers and friends occupying them and engrossed in the action on the TV.
I walk into my dad’s office to hear important phone calls and the sound of creativity being transferred as he pumps out a few books on the computer. I see his kids play pranks on him as they scare him with his headphones on. A few feet away in my mom’s office I hear my her reassuring voice on the phone with her kids, asking them how their day went.
Dipping into the kitchen, I see her cooking thousands of meals for various combinations of kids. The kids grab a stool and a spot at the counter and dig into the simple goodness, growing bigger and stronger as they flash in front of me.
I turn my head to the big table and am rushed through Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with family. In the blur, I hear laughter and passionate debate. I feel the warmth all around me.
The door, a portal to these memories, opens and closes. Thousands of entries and exits flow by me like a river: family, friends and dogs stream in and out. I see the tired faces of kids after soccer games return gratefully home. I see my brother with bags packed and ready to go to college, with loving goodbyes exchanged. I see an excited pair - a mother and daughter - head out the door to go to Malawi for the first time.
I follow these memories out the door and am greeted by dogs being called to dinner, racing around the corner of the porch eagerly. I see cars pull in and out, kids learning to drive, Mom and Dad watching from the window.
Out on the lawn I see the lawnmower plodding back and forth, a fight to keep back the wilderness. I see a wedding tent erected and a grand celebration. I’m thrown back to a moment days ago where I see the “For Sale” sign at the beginning of our driveway for the first time. This home was a unique place, an open secret. Its physical frame is for sale, but the memories that have filled it are not: I have traveled all through the past and collected them. I will carry them with me into the future, the evolving now. The conductor takes a bow, the silence and magic of the moment is broken, and time wearily resumes its procession.