For 20 years, Mrs. Willerding sat in the glassed-in ticket booth at the Michigan Movie Theater on lower Michigan Avenue, six blocks from her house and six doors down from my house. Every night of the week except Sunday matinees, Mrs. W. sat there dispensing tickets.

Mrs. W. was part of the topography of my heart, a big blackboard deep in my brain that refuses to be erased. She was always there. She was there on the insufferably hot summer nights, with a tiny fan blowing her hair across her eyes and the bitter cold nights when she kept a piece of shoebox in front of the little window, to block out the cold.

Mr. Schneider was the druggist on the corner of Michigan and Holly Hills. He wore a green visor and black arm cuffs on his wrists and stood, for all of my childhood, in the same place, between two counters, with fly swatter in hand, staring into space as he listened to the St. Louis Cardinal games on the radio in the back.

He, too, is part of the landscape of my heart, that vast place we all have deep in our memories that hides pictures, smells and sensations that never go away.

You have your own, that collection of faces and voices that belong to the long dead we all loved. I know you do. You’re thinking of someone right now, a face that was always there, day in and day out. There was a grocer who always gave you a piece of candy, a girl in your first-grade class who smelled of clean soap.

There’s a teacher you loved who kept a certain flower on her desk and they had them at her funeral, and wherever you go and smell that flower, you think of her. For some of you, she was always there.

For those of us of a certain age, we remember an immutable time when people, seasons and songs of love were constant, when wallpaper always seemed to be the same in afternoon rooms. Like Mrs. Willerding, teachers, cops, who walked beats then, bartenders and grocers never seemed to die or even age.

The waitress at the cafe who wore her hair in the same bun and licked the tip of her pencil before she wrote down your order. She was there when your parents first took you there, and maybe she was there when you took a girl there. You went by years later, and there she was, licking the pencil.

We’re older now and things change every day, sometimes in the same day. Now things and people disappear within days, weeks.

The baristas at the local Starbucks, here or in Portland or Chicago. You knew their names, their stories. Then they were gone. The kid who sells you the ticket at your movie house. You strike up a relationship, tell him how you loved the movie or hated it. Then he’s gone. There is someone else in his place. Where did he go, you ask?

“He got done,” they say, a strange Maine expression that means he moved or graduated or got fired.

Mrs. Willerding never got fired, never moved on, never seemed to age or ever got done. She and Mr. Schneider and the waitress with the pencil, they were constants, unmovable, like the walls of your bedroom, the newspaper on the porch, the grass on your lawn. They kept the earth from moving under your feet. They were there. Things would be all right.

It’s unfair of course for us to not want Emily or Allison to get done, to graduate and move on in life, to become carpenters, senators, lawyers. fathers, mothers.

Curiously, we long for them to stay put, to bring us our coffee with a smile, hand us our groceries and change, sell us our tickets.

Yes, it’s unfair. But much of our daily lives rest on sand. Things get wobbly, they change. Movies that once were always there are gone, favorite shows are canceled, the dish you loved at the restaurant is no longer on the menu. Loved ones die. That topography of your heart shifts, tilts, vibrates and disappears. All we can do is move on. All we can do is say, “Thanks for the memories.”

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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