Time capsule of what?

October 8, 2008

I’ve made it halfway through a movie that uses my childhood home on a Central Florida lake as a main setting. One of my brother’s bought the DVD after I learned of the film and wrote about it.

So far it’s like glancing around a museum I visited a long time ago, a familiar building containing exhibits I don’t recognize. I choked up a bit at the first glimpse of the living room, a room I haven’t seen since 1970, the year my family moved out while I was away at college. But my notion that I’d be sent hurtling back and experience wave after wave of bittersweet nostalgia isn’t materializing.

Seeing the living room — the stairs I used to race up, the grandfather’s clock that never worked, and wall that once contained framed charcoal drawings of my two brothers and me — left me thinking of my long-dead mother. She’d have a fit at the decor: stuffy and jammed with knickknacks.

The alcove off the living room is still lined with floor-to-ceiling book shelves but crowded with an out-of-place piano. No room for my brothers and me to sprawl on the floor, argue over Monopoly, and listen to records on the stereo. The memory conjures up a song, the Beatles’ “Norwegian Woods.”

No shots yet of my bedroom, the only one downstairs, nor of my bathroom where I enraged my father by taking such long steamy showers that he’d have no hot water. At some point the plaster ceiling collapsed, curing me of that habit.

Everything in the big yard where dad made us labor looks different, new plants or old ones grown beyond recognition. The orange grove out back was gone by the late 1980s like most other citrus in the Orlando area, thanks to killer freezes. Oddly, the veranda canopy of live oaks draped with Spanish moss appears unchanged, as if the trees decided to stop growing when we left.

In one scene in the front yard, a huge alligator shows up. When I was a kid, there were no alligators in Lake Sybelia — the pesticide DDT had made them scarce in our town, Maitland, and in many parts of the state.

Maybe in an upcoming scene someone will discover the time capsule my brothers and I put inside one of the balcony railing posts. It was so long ago that none of us remember what we hid.

Instead of watching the rest of the movie, I’d rather sneak up on the balcony after dark, pry off the wooden post cover, and reach inside to find what’s been lost.