(photo by Cheri Sundra, a very fine "Guerrilla Historian," in her excellent post, Abandoned Scranton Lace: A Visual Autopsy of The American Dream. One should read this.)
It was either in 1999 or 2000 that my wife Marsha visited this facility to purchase some lace curtains.
Lace has no aesthetic appeal for me. But my parishioners held Scranton Lace in such high regard that we relented, entered the fading plant, and paid something like $65 for a piece that looked as if it belonged on the dresser of my taciturn spinster aunt Celeste.
But we made the purchase nonetheless, mainly because the plant was haunted, even then.
I would have preferred a positively scary revenant to the inescapable lostness and waste that lingered in the cold fog of regret. The stories that hung, like lace shrouds grayed by the decades, recounted sequential waves of immigrants who arrived, suffered prejudice and contempt from the boss-class, then turned around and inflicted similar contempt upon the next arrivals.
But my people were proud of Scranton Lace. In the midst of so much dirty work in the anthracite mines and on the rail lines, this beautiful, clean and bright fancy lace stood out white and geometrically recursive, so beautiful and pretty for a vodka and halupki-laced nasi ludi -- which means "our people."
I remember, in my time in Scranton, hearing "I'll go get something at Scranton Lace," particularly from the older ones: and with that expression, there was an unmistakable undertone of warm confidence ... that something pretty could be gotten there, that good work was to be found there, that "our people" made something beautiful there.
"Our people" -- not the tribal exclusive sense of the word, but the meek sense, the sense of belonging to us all who are just trying to get along in this mean world, who haven't an aristocratic chance, but who just want to survive with a clean little house with healthy kids, and maybe make it to at least a few Sunday afternoons as zedo or baba, when the roast chicken and halupki smells could waft down the steep brick streets and the chattering, funnily misbehaved band of grandchildren, echoing over the hill rise.
Where there would be dinner set on Scranton Lace, made by our hands, something pretty, a face of beauty, a trace of our people.
So fleeting is this wisp, this so impermament visitation of the poor, this handmade grace.