Notes from Candice Ransom

Wheels on the Pavement

sunroom house web

My new planner set the course last week: work, two trips to the library, three trips to the gym.  Time to crack the whip!  Get back in the harness!  But by Thursday, I was sick of my own dictums.  I needed to get away from my desk, my office, my house.  The wheels of the little red truck needed to spin on distant pavement.

I felt at sixes and sevens.  Already the new year seemed to be sliding away.  I wanted to work.  I wanted to not work.  A break was in order.  So we hit the road for Westmoreland County, far enough away to feel we’d actually gone somewhere, close enough that I could still get in a half day’s writing.

sunroom house mailbox web

Hundreds of gray-backed seagulls, driven inland from the Potomac River, gossiped in cropped corn fields.  Silos and cellphone towers shouldered heavy clouds, pushing the leaden ceiling higher as we drove east.  Bungalows napped like cats around a wood stove.

My camera finger itched.  Donna Hopkins had photographed a house along this stretch.  I wanted to see it, too.  After parking the little red truck, I crunched through years of fallen leaves to the back door.  It opened easily and I slipped inside.  Maybe I’d find the answer to my restlessness in those chill-damp rooms.

sunroom house toaster web

What I found was an all-too-common story:  an old place rented by people who dropped behind on rent, were most likely evicted, and packed in a hurry.  The house next hosted squatters.  And then . . . no one.

sunroom house painting web

My footsteps echoed on plywood rotted through in spots, revealing a flooded basement below.  Dark water mirrored my face, wavery with indecision and conflicting desires.

sunroom house bathroom web

I left the house, aware I’d asked for more than I deserved.  Did the family who once lived there get what they deserved?

Maybe the people who left behind Christmas ornaments bought shiny new bulbs for a real pine tree in the corner of their own living room.

sunroom house plate web

Maybe they nailed a horseshoe over a doorway, prongs up to hold only good luck.

sunroom house doorway web

I hoped they were safe and warm.

sunroom house madonna web

On the road again, we stopped in the tidy little town of Montross.

montross coke web

We ate lunch in The Art of Coffee, a former gas station.  My sandwich came with carrot sticks and a chocolate chip cookie, which made me feel cherished, like a second-grader opening up a packed lunch from home.

montross lunch web

Small pleasures pushed back the January-ness of the day, a cup of soup, a cookie, a different point of view.  On the drive back home, the clouds parted and blue limned the flat horizon.  My outlook brightened.

frank montross web

Rebecca Solnit says “We treat desire as a problem to be solved . . . though often it is the distance between us and the object of desire that fills the space in between with the blue of longing.”

sunroom house wallpaper web

Truck wheels followed the pavement to our house, where the cat wanted his own lunch, my work waited, and the distant blue faded, becoming the next blue just beyond.

15 thoughts on “Wheels on the Pavement”

  1. That picture of the first Harry Potter Book covered in mildew and dust makes me want to cry. I wonder if the child who lived there left it behind by accident. Did she miss it when she got to the new place?

    • The sight of that book made me feel sad, too. Surely they could have found room for that book–there were other books scattered around but no other children’s book. This post reminded me of the things my sister and I had to leave behind when we were moved out of our house. You never get them back and you never forget them.

  2. This post raises a flood of thoughts and ideas, I couldn’t begin to mention them all.
    Objects stop being mere objects when they become ours. For as long as we need them the things we want become a part of our soul. But then something bitter happens when we accidentally or forcibly leave things behind in our childhood.
    At first glance I thought what I was seeing was an abandonment from a long ago past. To be honest I wasn’t looking too closely at the appliances. But when I saw the HP book, I felt it. That could have been my book. That could be my daughter’s.

    • I would say this eviction, if that’s what it was, took place about 15 years ago. Maybe 10. When a house isn’t lived in it goes down very quickly.

      As I commented above, the things left behind reminded me of the things we had to leave behind when we had to move. Even though we moved next door, we couldn’t get those things. They belonged to the new family.

      • That’s just really sad.
        When I was twelve we moved house. The moving truck arrived at the old house, my bedroom boxes were the first to be loaded. At the other end of the journey the truck was unloaded but there was about two boxes still on the truck. The adults [movers & parents] stood around talking, at the opening of the truck. I looked at the boxes and at the adults and back again, wondering why they weren’t unloading my boxes. I should have said something, but I was scared to interrupt and raise my voice. And that was that, beloved toys that I took good care of were gone.

        • Oh, this is such a poignant story. It’s as if you’ve been told “childhood is over, get on with growing up.” Melissa, have you written about this? It’s a short story, an essay, a poem. Part of a memoir, even. Or . . . a story from the viewpoint of the lost toys. This has such wonderful possibilities and it may help soothe those hurt feelings that linger today.

    • This B&E stirred emotions that bothered me–guilt in peering at someone else’s misfortune, and a reminder that I’d been in that situation myself when I was very young. The left-behind HP book reminded me of the powerlessness of children.

  3. A Frank soup picture!! I’ve waited a long time for one. 🙂

    Thanks for taking us along on your outing. The abandoned house looks so sad. Each of the objects left behind has its own story to tell.

  4. I find the common thread that runs among us all – this longing – to be a comfort. Whether in the riches of a full life and warm shelter or deep in despair and without a home at all, we are all more same than different. And so it is that we connect and share our experiences -through the words on a page, the photograph on paper, the hand outstretched. I hope this year doesn’t slip by too quickly. I want to savor the thoughts you share here.

    • I say this is the last place I’ll “break into” and I think it’s true, at least for now. This house was less about discovery and documentation and more about realizing I was once one of those people, even though I was a baby at the time.

      Too many times I’ve run into the same story. My desire to go into old empty houses stems from my ten-year-old self, eager for adventure. Unfortunately, I keep running into my four-year-old self, who sees the house she was born in just across the driveway and knows it may as well be on the moon.


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