“Home Movie” by Eileen Doherty

Eileen Doherty


After my Great Aunt Julia drives her 1975 Ford Fairlane
through the plate glass window of the Shady Grove nursing home
where her sister lives—not living, Julia says,
you’ll never put me in one of those boxes—
after the car comes to rest in the dining room
near the table where Harrison O’Malley and his seven lady friends
have just finished their custard pie and left for the recreation room,
after Julia, seeing the steam plumes rise from the crushed engine,
begins to shout Fire! Fire!
everyone gathers.
The mobile and partially mobile,
scurrying nurses, maintenance workers interrupting their disinfecting,
all gather around the old woman in the old car
in the dining room of the Shady Grove.

And there they see Julia being lifted from the battered seat,
hands fluttering like paper fans,
white hair tumbling from its top knot.
Myra Landis will later bet Chickie Patterson
three desserts that Miss Ford Fairlane
will be the new resident in Room 212
where Helen McGovern died just two days earlier,
and by the end of the month Myra will get Chickie’s blueberry pie,
apple crisp, and her favorite,
the triple-layer fudge cake
as reward for her prediction.

But now while the crowd is still in the dining room,
I want to play Julia’s movie in reverse,
show it large on the far white wall
so everyone can see the car backing through the window,
can watch Julia return home to Linden Street.
I want them to see the petunias floating in the blue dish on the kitchen table,
the porcelain dolls in the wicker chair by her bed,
her grandmother’s engraved comb and brush on the mahogany bureau.
I want someone to notice the waxed floors,
the doilies on the tabletops.
And I want them to watch earlier scenes—
Julia using her hat pin to stab the hand of a mugger,
Julia leaving her second grade classroom for the last time.

This Julia movie is too long to show in its entirety—
the scenes go back to her childhood
when she played in the Elm Park fountain
as her father stood by—
but I ask this of Joseph Borowski, maintenance worker,
and Millie Andrews, head nurse,
and Sarah DiTomas, the young aide,
and the neighbors-to-be Myra and Chickie and Harrison O’Malley,

I ask them to remember this movie playing here on the wall,
so a year from now we all can gather in Room 212
to replay Julia’s life when she cannot recall
the dolls, the comb,
or the father,
the father.

from Rattle #17, Summer 2002

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