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Gargoyle

August 5, 2012

I remember it clearly even from a time before I knew what it was called.  It awaited me at the bottom of the dimly lit stairs that led to the basement of my childhood home. From my earliest years I had to pass it as I made my way each day to play in the rumpus room that lay beyond it.

The gargoyle hung on the entrance to my father’s workshop, a simple dark pine door with a small iron latch. It was painted silver and clad in strange armor with wings spread in readiness, a menacing scowl on its face. Like a guardian of forbidden territory, it looked down on me from its place high on that door, the piercing eyes possessing a power not normal for inanimate things. I remember being both fascinated and scared by it, much the same as I was with my father.

Through the hanging bead curtain that separated the stairwell from the rumpus room, it must have glimpsed the events of our lives: the Christmas mornings of gift opening delight beneath the tree, birthday parties with screaming children playing pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, the surprise twenty-fifth anniversary party my sister and I had sprung. The gargoyle witnessed my personal changes through the progressing years as I operated my train set on the red and black linoleum tile floor and practiced my basketball dribble around the stationary adversary of the lolly pole and sought a private refuge for teenage romance with my girlfriend. And after I had left that house, it stood vigil during my parent’s remaining years. It was only when the house lost its loving occupants and was being cleared out for sale that I took it from its place.

Bringing it home along with my father’s old tool box and its assorted containers of old screws and nails or my mother’s sewing box filled with the buttons I’d played with as a boy was never in question, for these particular items seemed to be somehow imbued with the life spirit of my parents and the house in which I’d lived. What is this crazy animism that makes us hold onto this old stuff belonging to those who have left us?

The gargoyle is now hanging at the top edge of a tool pegboard — no longer a position of prominence like the one of my youth — but each time I pass it, I become a child again, its gaze appearing to follow me across the room.

I think of what will eventually become of this gargoyle. It has no meaning to anyone other than my sister and I.  Though I know that in the greater scheme of things this has little import, I trouble over this, with images of the forlorn creature sitting on a table at a garage sale, no more than a dusty oddity now. Perhaps it might be bought and once again have its place in someone’s house, staring down at a new timid child. More likely, though, just like the Velveteen Rabbit, it will end up in the trash heap, only with no hope of rescue, the destiny of old stuff.

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