unfinished essay, work in progress... What else do YOU want to know from this piece?!
|Always, the mansion's past and future beaty shines through. She inspires romance, awe, imagination.
I live in a decrepit Victorian mansion. The roof leaks, raccoons live upstairs, cobwebs drift evocatively throughout.
Locals respectfully shun the three stories of dilapidation towering discreetly above the block.
Captivated by the romance seeping from the scrolled trim and gentle arches of the wrap around porch, out of towners are drawn to the mansion. They crave tours, and eagerly sop up any information. "The mansion was built in 1850 by a sea captain. Many of the original architectural features are still intact despite some very hard use. There is a widow's walk, but unfortunately the railing has been lost. No, we're under renovation now, the house cannot be toured." Eyes sparkling, the tourist gazes on.
What wonders they would see inside at this moment! I would like to send the house to Hollywood, for no finer setting for horror movie or gothic romance could be created than the reality of the mansion.
Pairs of arches, resembling Moses' tablets, or nestling tombstones, clasp crowns of wooden haloes in the 6 foot china cabinet built into a dining room corner. This arch pattern is repeated in the porches. Downstairs, in the formal parlors, the dining room, the music room and kitchen, fourteen foot ceilings embrace a gracious space.
A local carpenter stands agape at the mansard roof, uttering a refrain familiar to all intimately familiar with the ruins..."If only...."
If only we won the lottery, if only a gleaming limousine purred into the driveway whose occupants would make a reasonable and sincere offer. If only one of the ancient trees contained a priceless cache of captain's treasure, if only local history contained more mention of that captain, and his elegant mansion whose grounds once included the rich, tempestuous shore itself. If only they hadn't cut two house lots adjacent to the Mansion within 6 feet of her bay windows. If only she retained her carriage house, which still stands as a separate property.
Once familiar with the Mansion, one begins to regard her as an entity, tendering her respect with the emphatic inflection of a proper name. I don't say "I'm at home." but "I'm at the Mansion. Pick me up at the Mansion. It's at the Mansion." She is a lovely dowager with the evocative character of a derelict sailing vessel. Despite the ravages of recent decades, though beached in a popular backwater seaside village of condominiums and fishing cottages, she still inspires one to dream of the oceans of history she has successfully navigated. I fume in frustrated rage when heavy wind and rains send myriad leaks cascading from the ten foot ceilings of my second floor bedroom, but my imagination sings when I ascend the third floor roof access to the widow's walk. The cold ocean roars audibly from 80 acres away as I gaze over the treetops.
There are tales of spirits. I once smelled the Captain's pipe. He is said to yet oversee his house, tendering advice on practical maintenance. Folk have spoke of a crimson lady who waxes violent at the top of the grand staircase, and another who sits in the window of the Captain's suite. The Mansion's current owner saw a young woman in a calico dress, with a white kitten, wander across the front lawn to disappear in bright sunlight. A foultempered drunkard on the front porch must be admonished to linger elsewhere. The house remained vacant a decade, during which time two police officers, dispatched to investigate a call of vandalism, were commanded "Get out." from the thick dark of the servants' quarters on the third floor. They believe the house was empty. Benign green dancing lights have been seen in the midnight hush of my own bedroom, where a gentle angel is said to preside. A spirit playfully named Casper claims an overgrown copse as his domain. A little boy stands in the dining room, a dark figure coalesces vaguely in the doorway of a front parlor, the dogs stare fixedly into corners. People have been shoved down stairs, off of porches, had their hair stroked by an invisible caress. One local police officer swore to tracing several disappearances to the property.
The house is also rich in current history. People knock on the narrow double doors to mention that they once lived here. Naked bikers whirled in Bacchanalian dervishes over close clipped lawns during the sixties. The privet bushes flanking the wrap around porch were trimmed, flat-topped as the original landscaper had envisioned. These privets are the most tenacious of plants; despite our wanton sawing of the thick boles, they spring forth anew in a riotous growth of dark-green leaves that drape the rotting porches in modest skirts of rich foliage.
Pairs of large dogs have always been found at the Mansion. During the sixties, one family had two St. Bernards. Two decades later, another family included two Great Danes, who tore great furrows in doors and newels. A pair of retriever mix sisters nudge and mutter today; Maggie the Muse gazes wisely at me as I type these words, while my two cats perch on the porch roof disdainfully regarding the neighborhood.
While a rainy day resounds to the tip-tic of pans, though one may awake in the wee hours to cats chittering in rage at an unseen visitor on the roof, despite our lack of the full staff required to maintain house and grounds, I am proud to say I live in a captain's mansion. She sheds more character in flaking paint than modern houses could acquire through diligent design.