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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Secret Rooms

Photographer: Salvatore Vuono

All of us have secrets locked up in our heads and it is up to us to decide if we want to share them or not. In my case, I never shared one secret I had until the last month of my mother's life. She was dying and we spent long long hours talking about everything under the sun. I distinctly remember one day at her apartment: We were sitting where she loved to sit--at her glass-topped kitchen table that sat in front of a big double-hung window. Perhaps it was because I had this secret locked up in me for so long and after all, why shouldn't I share it with my mother? Out came my ramblings about a series of secret rooms that I knew existed somewhere. I could see them vividly and even describe what was in them: Nothing but knotty pine walls of bookcases filled with books on all sides with a middle doorway that led to more rooms just the same. In fact, the middle doorway that went from one huge room to another had no end as far as I could see. To get to these rooms, I told her, I had to go into a closet [somewhere,] turn to the right and open a door. After I opened the door, I was met with a staircase; after going up the staircase, that was what I found. Since my mother and I kept no secrets from each other, I even went as far as to tell her that when I moved into the house in which I am living now that there were numerous times that I would go into my older son's room, open his closet and just know the door was inside that led to the staircase.

Common sense told me that was an impossibility for once in my son's closet, there were only three walls: The one on the right backed up to a wall in the bedroom and the bed was there. Still...this occurance happened so many times that I lost count. No way did I ever tell my older son or anyone else for fear of being labeled "mad" or worse.
While I told my mother the above about going into his closet, she just sat there stunned: She looked like she had been shocked beyond belief. No words were said for a few minutes but then she put her hand on mine and uttered the following: "I can't believe that you have seen the same rooms that I have always seen. And furthermore, I,too, climbed the staircase on the right and have seen the knotty pine walls and the books and the middle doors that went on endlessly. I have been in them and yet I have no idea where these secret room are."  Silence fell on both of us as we stared into each other's eyes. Disbelief? Or was it something connected to my mother's looming death that linked the "secret rooms" to her and me? As for the answer to that, I have mulled it over and over and have only come to one conclusion: Both of us with the mother-daughter connection had a common secret that meant something. I am just thankful that I shared the secret rooms with her for it wasn't more than two weeks later that she died.

I am grateful that I had those months to talk about everything under the sun with my dying mother for I am an only child. And so many questions were answered, love exchanged, talks of miracles and yes, sharing a locked up secret. You the reader are left with a decisions or perhaps, I should say  questions: Why did we both have that same locked secret? Was telling it a finality for her and a release for me? After her death almost ten years ago, I have not gone into my older son's room [he is now a grown up man and has not lived here in a long time] to open the closet and look for the door. I don't need to. The secret rooms are not there but they still exist in my mind as plain as day.

Three doors with one ajar, with a view of the outdoors through it.*Photograph by Salvatore Vuono

Sherry Hill


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