children

They lived with their dead

A reminder of one lost (funerary sculpture on the grounds of Chesterwood, Stockbridge MA), © 2013 Celia Her City

Several historic homes we visited in New England offered reminders of the omnipresence of death in earlier times.

In one house, a large marble bust of a young man stood in the corner of the living room, the likeness of a son, age 19, who had gone upstairs after dinner and died.  The same family had lost a 26-year-old daughter to colitis, sitting up with her in her bedroom in the final weeks of her life.

Loss and the possibility of loss dogged the everyday, making people perhaps more comfortable with death than we.  On the grounds of the home of the sculptor Daniel Chester French, I encountered this funerary sculpture of a boy, with an arched path leading up to a bench for meditation nearby.  I can imagine the husband and wife sitting on this bench, recalling their dead child, and pondering God’s nature and human love.

A bench for contemplating the quick and the dead, © 2013 Celia Her City

Each summer contemporary sculpture is installed in the park, and this summer a modern sculpture resembling a pregnant woman has been placed in between the bench and the boy.

How we know we’re home

The front elevator (Credit: Celia Her City)

We enter an old wooden box made of mahogany, which carries us up several stories.  In the garage, a nice man takes our suitcases and groceries out of our car and brings them up in the back elevator.  We adhere to the rules of entry that announce our return from the country and govern the formal territory that we call home.

The back elevator is for dogs, and when you’re in a hurry.  It smells, but people in it are more friendly.  The front elevator induces an up-tight decorum.  Conversation, if it occurs, tends to be brief and stilted.  Once, though, I caught a little girl doing a handstand in it, her father looking on, with a sly smile on his face, doing nothing to stop her.  Kids are kids after all, and we wouldn’t want her personality to be as square as the old elevator that we have to use.