Friday, June 7, 2013

PRIVATE

 



I have a deep respect for privacy.  This goes back to when I was little  and my mother told me off for opening an envelope addressed to her. "You must never open a letter addressed to someone else," she scolded.  I must have been about four.

"Why?" I asked.

 "What if it is private?" she replied.

Private. The word was sobering.  From then on, I understood it as a barrier beyond which I should not go.

But later, visiting my father at the theater where he was performing, I remember the joy, the sense of being special when once we were invited into the private room of the director. The mahogany door was marked "Private" and in the interval we ran down red carpeted corridors where other audience members milled around and we entered through this door marked private. The door which only we were permitted to go through.  Theater-goers were lining up for the ladies room or the concession stand and I remember a strange woman opened the private door after me, and grabbed my arm. "You can’t go in there," she said. "It’s private."

 "I know," I said. "But I am allowed."

"Oh," she said, startled.

Yes.  I was allowed and she was not.  A special feeling.

Somehow I find myself back on the subject of private gardens, like the one at Gramercy Park, and remembering in particular a gate marked private at a hotel where we once stayed as children. The hotel was called Owlswick and it had tall trees and there were wood pigeons singing in the garden.  The lawn was sweeping and the property huge, as though without boundaries, except for a wall which circled a very small garden in the middle - the private garden belonging to the proprietors of the hotel.  The proprietor’s children played in this garden, you could hear them laughing behind the wall - and after we befriended them, they invited us inside. 

"Sorry," I told them. "I cannot go."

"Why not?" asked the little girl.

"Because it says private," I answered, refusing to enter.

The Garden of Eden was also private once Adam and Eve had been kicked out.  That marked their downfall. Then it was off limits to them. They were expelled from the garden.

Being kicked out or not let in.  Are they the same thing? I think I understand it as the feeling of futility, the feeling of smallness and insignificance when you cannot make your dreams come true.  When you do the best you can and your best is not good enough.  You are not allowed in the garden.  Or else you are expelled.  The garden is private and you are not invited.

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