A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Pretty Creepy

OK, things are starting to get pretty creepy around the Emory House, ever since I began writing a screenplay.

I decided to write about things that happen in a Victorian house. I created a character, Alice, living in the house in the 21st century. Alice becomes increasingly interested in the history of her house. She digs and digs to uncover information about the original owners, and finally discovers some secrets.

So far, so good. I got this idea before I ever lived in a Victorian house...back when I didn't particularly even like Victorians, in fact. It actually came as a surprise to me when I realized that my situation was similar in many ways to my protagonist's, and that I didn't have to look any farther than my own parlor for story ideas.

The creepy thing is how driven I am all of a sudden to do all the things that Alice does in the screenplay. It's as if I can't write the next scene until I act it out myself. Take yesterday, for example.

I had gone to the Genealogy Room of the Historical Museum to research my own house. I learned that the Emory's only child, Carrie, was buried in Springfield Cemetery. So off I went to look for the grave. The cemetery office was closed, so I drove around slowly, looking for the headstone. The cemetery is huge, but I figured that since the family had been prosperous, the monument was probably large, and I was right.

The Emory plot is in a section of contemporary grave sites. The family monument and the individual headstones are granite, an extremely durable material, so they look brand new. I had found what I was looking for, but my discovery led to several new mysteries.

First of all, Carrie was not an only child. She had two older sisters, Etta, who died aged 22 years, and Flora, who died aged 16 weeks. Carrie herself lived to be nearly 80.

Second of all, the large monument has two names on it. "EMORY" is carved on one side, and "STACY" on the other. The monument is on a corner, set diagonally, with Emory headstones along one side and Stacy headstones along the other. Who the hell were the Stacys??? Mrs. Emory's maiden name wasn't Stacy, it was Lane, and none of the daughters married.

Third of all, there was a large pot of geraniums on the Stacy side. For a moment I was excited, thinking that some descendant was still keeping up the graves. But a follow-up to the office revealed that Carrie had paid for perpetual care. Still, I suppose in my screenplay I could have Alice discover someone tending to the grave. That could be a way for her to unearth some family secrets.

It's not fair that Alice should find out more about her house's family than I do about mine. If she gets her hands on a trunk full of old photos, I want to get ahold of a trunk full, too. Although that would be really, really creepy.

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