This past weekend my husband went around the house and changed all the door handles. These doors are over seventy years old, none of them close properly, and it seemed to me that new door handles, new door knobs for all the closets won’t make any difference. I advocated leaving the doors always open, this way we don’t have to deal with the handles! I teased him: ‘If you spent that much time updating our relationship, we’d be again just like newly married.’ He said, ‘That’s just exactly what I am doing!’
Then I started thinking about doors and handles. A good handle, a brand-new one might at least make you feel like you’ve updated something. The new handles replaced the old hand prints and the old memories, the traces of the other people who had lived here before, with something that now is ours. (We have updated the whole house, mind you, before we got to the doors, so let’s say that structurally the house works!) It feels good to grab into something that fits comfortably in your hand to open and to close the door. Maybe we are opening new things into our relationship too–at least the desire to make things work, to make them more comfortable.
Thinking about my marriage brought some lovely memories of my father who spent almost the entire time he was at home, trying to fix it. We children broke everything, he fixed everything, and nothing was ever too complicated for him to do, whether that was building a whole heating system or a brand new fence, which my sister and I used for gymnastics and as a volleyball net, with all the children on the street. I have no idea if my mother turned everything my father did around the house into metaphors but I have been doing this all my life, putting new words into old structures, like family, forever re-arranging feelings. The doors may still not open all the way or close properly in my writing either but at least we have a way to move them.