Having finally opened the main door to Lilly House, I found many other doors inside. There are rickety closet doors, new white bathroom doors, heavy locked oak doors, and mysterious attic doors, most of which I’ve taken the liberty of opening, peering at the contents of each unique room, taking in the painted walls and the creaky wooden floors. In the closet under the stairs, a ragged pair of slippers stands stoically, waiting for its owner to return. The kitchen closet is attached to both the kitchen and the Artful Dodge office, like a secret passageway in Clue. In the attic, a smudged mirror in a purple room opens to shelves void of keepsakes or cosmetics. Each open door conjured endless questions. Has anyone lived here? Died here? Whose slippers are these? What ghosts walk these halls?
This house contains scores of tales slipped within each other like old hatboxes. In an interview in Artful Dodge 42/43, Robert Mooney and Christine Lincoln discuss the depths of such stories and the effect that they have on readers and listeners. “[A story within a story] helps make [the main story] more universal,” says Lincoln, deliberating upon the Irish and Native American folktales she has read. She also recalls how her grandmother would tell her stories about other people and how, at the same time, these were still her grandmother’s stories. Mooney gives an example of George Moore’s “Albert Nobbs,” where the narrator recounts a tale as he was told by another storyteller. New layers are added to a narrative as it is told and retold by different people with different experiences. Though I do not have anyone here to explain the many corners of this house, I can create my own understanding. This house now lives in me as I have worked in it. Here, I too am a story within a story.
—Holly Engel, Assistant Editor