Hello walls. How'd things go for you today? — Willie Nelson

Hello walls. How'd things go for you today? — Willie Nelson
Consider what all the rooms in your house would say if they got together tonight, when you were asleep, to swap stories. Maybe talk about how you woke up grouchy or pleasant this morning. Complain about how you keep the thermostat too high or too low. Discuss your musical tastes, eating habits, wardrobe, relationships with your spouse and kids. Gossip about you a little.
What if all the houses and apartments you've ever lived in would get together and do the same? No doubt it would it be an interesting rendezvous. A chronicle of your journey through the geography of your life told from the perspective of the spaces you occupied.
What about the public buildings? — the restaurants, bars, libraries, schools, museums, grocery stores, malls, clothing stores and theatres in which you've spent time.
Far fetched? Don't be so sure. We certainly think nothing about carrying around and sharing memories about them ... so why would it not be so that they do the same?
Certainly the memory of a specific place can bring for us a flood of thoughts and emotions. It happens every time I drive around the area. Whether it be past the long closed Colonial Fox Theatre (where I spent childhood hours with my grandma, boyhood Saturdays with my friends and evenings with dates) or the long gone PICCO store just up the street from my house (where my parents took my me and my six brothers and sisters for ice cream on dreamy summer nights in the 50s and I took my wife and sons for rich butter pecan or zesty lemon ice cream and sweet limeades after we moved into the neighborhood in the early 80s).
I struggle to remember the last movie I watched at the Fox or the last cherry limeade I drank at PICCO's. Had I realized it was my last time would I have savored the experience more completely? Maybe talked to the building? Listened to it? Thanked it? Paid it tribute? Given it a long goodbye?
Some buildings have many times changed their identity and function (in the cut and paste of openings and closings, a clothing store becomes a restaurant which becomes an office which becomes a bar, etc.). Some stand sad and empty. Some are completely gone, a concrete slab their headstone. Some have been replaced by new buildings.
I still swallow hard and have a flood of memories when I pass the spot where old Frontenac High School stood before it was torn down to make room for the new one. The vision of its red brick facade gleaming in the late afternoon sun from the swing on the front porch of the bungalow in which I spent my childhood. The unmistakable smell of new text books. The shouts and muffled cheers of the crowd watching a basketball game in the old sunken gym. The "ching, ching, ching" of the chain against the metal flagpole in the evening breeze.
In the end, it's all about a sense of place. And the fact that I have lived in southeast Kansas long enough to notice the changes says something about it being my home base. One thing's for sure. As the years go by, I have a greater appreciation and reverence for the spaces I occupy. Certainly, in our 125-year-old house, the voices the Playter and Gibson families speak daily if we care to look around and listen.
I often recall how Tony Ladonne,, our next door neighbor 30 years ago in Chicago, would look at Linda and me impishly most every time we were over to visit and say with a nod and a sweeping gesture, "Boy … if these walls could talk!"
I used to think that it was just way for him to open his storytelling about his adventures with his wife, Evelyn, but over the years I came to consider it differently. That he was saying the stories we leave behind in the kitchen, basement, living room and bedroom, etc. form a legacy we pass along to the next occupants.
And years from now, when we are absent, gone to different homes or passed away, our legacy remains — hovering on the periphery of rooms in a nimbus of stories. And, through the years, speaks to the new residents in the language of place.
J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net