Our Old Back Door

For no reason I can explain, I just remembered how my father used to slam our back door on his way out, and how without thinking my two brothers and I followed his example. When the door closed, we were already several feet away � we were in that much of a hurry. The slam expressed our eagerness, enthusiasm, and confidence. Dad was in a hurry because he had so much work to do, and because the work was work he loved, and because he was glad to be able to do it. We were in a hurry because he was, and because we knew exactly where we were going and why � or thought we did. In truth, we were together on the same immensely satisfying, challenging, incredible ride, a ride that is going on to this day, to this very moment.

The front door, on the other hand, was rarely slammed. By front door, I don�t mean our real front door � the one at the end of the porch that led into our living room � but our front back door, which was opposite the back door at the end of a little hall. When our house was first built in 1954, the two doors didn�t yet exist, because that end of the house was a carport. Later on, when the family grew, a room replaced the carport and the two doors were added. Before the room was there, the back door was on the east end of the house and it opened onto the carport. When the room was added, the original back door became a simple open doorway into the hall and the new room.

There was a basket chair near the back door and a braided rug where we put on our shoes before going out, and took them off before coming any further in. Beside it was an old hat rack where our straw hats were hung, along with a few baseball caps and snow caps. To the right in later years was the clothes dryer, the noisy heat-generating machine that eventually won out over our clothesline.

Now, as I said, as often as it was used, the front back door was rarely slammed. This door led to a graveled area in front of the house where our pickup was parked in the shade of a big Italian stone pine. When we used this door, it usually meant we were going somewhere in the pickup, or that a hose had to be moved from one flower bed to another. We also greeted most of our visitors at the front back door, because the kitchen was on that end of the house, and because everyone almost always ended up sitting in the kitchen while my mother cooked or baked or got something ready to serve.

It was this latter use, I think, that made us treat the front back door differently. Though the front back door and the back door were identical, each with their window in the upper half and feeble button lock in the middle of the knob, it would have felt crude to slam the one where guests were admitted.

That I can recall, no one ever said, �Don�t slam the front back door.� We just didn�t do it. But we made up for it with the back door. When it was slammed shut, it sounded like a shot had been fired.

This talk about doors reminds me of an interesting thing that happened. One afternoon about twenty-five years ago, my father and a field man from a local fertilizer and chemical outfit were shooting the breeze in the backyard. They were standing about twenty feet from the back door, which was locked, because no one else was home and my father had been away from the house. While they were talking, this locked door slowly swung all the way open. The two men looked at each other, then back at the door. A few seconds later � about the time it usually takes for someone to pass through a doorway and realize that he has forgotten his wallet � with no help from a breeze, the door slowly shut itself, or was shut by some invisible force. With the field man as his witness, my father walked over and tried the knob. The door wouldn�t open. It was locked.

August 9, 2005

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Also by William Michaelian

Winter Poems

ISBN: 978-0-9796599-0-4
52 pages. Paper.
Another Song I Know
ISBN: 978-0-9796599-1-1
80 pages. Paper.
Cosmopsis Books
San Francisco

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