Our den was a beehive. Us coming in and rushing out. The blue glow from the nightly news. The red embers in the fireplace. Orange splashed here and there to offset the stark Danish furnishing. A bronze JFK. An iron eagle. A plaster Madonna in the corner. Us, a crew I thought typical back then. Six kids in stages of colorful rebellion.
Dance night. Once that new stereo got hooked up, 60’s rock entered the den. The front of the fireplace transformed into our stage. The reading lamp twisted to shine upwards on our lip-synching. Fire pokers and longish twigs meant for kindling converted into microphones. Bursts of energy of movement of sound. Us riding the crest of pandemonium. Dogs too, jumping along like they couldn’t get enough of what we felt.
Images pop into my head even now, forty plus years afterwards. We snaked through early life with no one looking too far ahead. Nothing rocked us out of the moment. We were cemented into that time and place. Body and soul. We were a force.
Me, moving along with what was in there. It was exactly those moments that all the other stuff just left us. Forgotten pains. Hurts gone. All that remained was to pulse along with a heavy beat and compelling refrain. We were at our best in chaos. Free abandon. With all the dancing and singing and commotion we could muster. Parents too. The den dense with adrenaline and serotonin. Fleeing the shadows we moved frantically. Convulsing with joy to have found a way to unity.
Winter brought cocktail hour, cheese platters, and family parties into the den. A crackling fire stoked up bright. Music made from the timbre of laughter. We children scampering underfoot. The den brilliant with whatever festive decor best reflected the occasion. All the chairs occupied and even spares brought in to accommodate the generations. Family trees that now seem unfathomable were commonplace. Who didn’t have a nearly a dozen around their nightly dinner table? Who didn’t people their lives with more and more children? In my small world this was all. Adults worked long weekdays. They played in their yards on Saturdays. All together we dressed for church and visiting on Sundays. Holidays bought us under one roof. Often times our roof. Often times our den.
Ordinary evenings the den remained quiet. Our father’s place. Doors closed. A lone light illuminating his reading. His floor to ceiling shelved books behind him. His need for solitude isolating him within the paneled walls. We ran about elsewhere. I remember peering in. The mystery of research yet unknown to me. But peculating all the same. He didn’t look up. Absorbed in matter. I would learn about that later when I sunk into a world of words. But back then bustling in and out of the shadows I remained lost within inarticulate emotion.
Eventually we six kids all moved into lives unlike any I could imagine back then. A family blown to both coasts gathering only once or twice in the long year. Still finding joyfulness in music and dance though. Still mouthing the lyrics that freed us back then. And the slightest reminder can propel us right back into our den.