The River Series

The House on the Corner of 4th and H, Part 2: The Unknown Places

The house on the corner of 4th and H goes on a journey which is a poignant reflection of the journey Daniella goes on. 

This photo is reversed- that’s because this is how Daniella’s house
is truly laid out to sit on the corner of 4th and H.  
The unknown places.
This is Part 2 of a series of author-written exploratory essays about The River Series… That sentence sounded totally boss, didn’t it? But, for real, this is just nerd stuff for people who loved The River Series- or for other people who like literary junk.

There are hiding holes in the fictitious house on the corner of 4th and H. This was part of the original design and the reader learns early on in the series that Dr. Cordero had the hiding holes constructed so that he could hide things from his brother-in-law, Konrad Gerulf aka Wulf.

The process of Daniella’s discovering the hiding holes throughout the series is representative of her discovering what secret places are hidden inside her soul. As a child, she had a simplistic view of her inner self- there was one known place, one secret self– and it never dawned on her that there could be others. Likewise, she knew of only one hiding hole- the one in her bedroom. But as the story unfolds, she learns from Franco Jr. there are other hiding holes. Yet, she is not given the privilege of knowing how to find them or of what lies within them. Then, with Franco gone, she endures trauma- and still these hiding places lay dormant, seemingly undiscovered.

After Daniella’s trauma as a prostitute ceases, an interesting thing happens. Though she had known of her own personal hiding hole (the one that had always been under her bed), she suddenly remembers it. It’s not that she had ever forgotten it was there- after all, she had been putting her pay from Wulf into the hiding hole each week for years- but her actions had been perfunctory and had required no amount of reflection or thought. This is because the trauma she was experiencing was repetitive- she never had a moment to reflect on it because it was ongoing without any form of break. While she had been literally stuffing away her money, she had been stuffing away her feelings, giving true thought to neither.

It takes some time after she is rescued by Henry Callum before she returns to her one hiding hole. This is followed by a moment of rediscoveryin which she, one by one, pulls out the hidden things and remembers them. Surprisingly, she cares very little about the money she finds there. Instead, what she cherishes most are the items which remind her of her family- Franco’s graduation program, Lydia’s ribbon, and, most of all, the family photo. Last of all, she rediscovers the postcard from herself.

It may seem incredible to the reader that she had forgotten the postcard, but it actually makes perfect sense. That postcard had been written at the height of her elation. However, within twenty-four hours her joy had been crushed by the very one who had created it. Therefore, the postcard had been a source of immeasurable grief, the catalyst for the most traumatic period of her life. The moment the postcard arrived in the mail, she had hidden it and, with it, the embarrassment she had felt. Since that point, she had literally piled loads of money on top of that postcard, perhaps hoping to erase it from her memory. Figuratively, this represents her using alcohol and drugs to try to cover up her negative feelings. And since her trauma began between the time that she wrote the postcard and received it in the mail, she had neither had time to reflect upon the postcard nor inclination to remember her greatest source of regret– at least, not until after her trauma ended.

After rediscovering that first hiding hole, she sought to find the others. Soon, two more hiding holes were discovered. The one Denny and Harry found contained more family memorabilia. But the true bounty is discovered when Daniella opens the hiding hole in her parents’ bedroom. This hiding hole is stuffed full of family treasures so sweet that she cries. Both of these holes are glimpses into her longing for a family and for the innocence of her past. Her longing is brought full circle when the Callum family sees her as a child (instead of a sinful young woman) and adopts her into their family.

The hiding holes from that point on lay dormant for several years, and it seems, during this time, that Daniella does not trouble herself to worry about them. She has plenty of growing up to do without the burden of her past. It is not until the Decker family decides to vacate the house that Daniella begins to wonder about the hiding holes and their contents.

This occurs at a particular junction in Daniella’s life in which she is trying to decide what she should do with her future. Subconsciously, she knows she can no longer move forward without dealing with some things from her past. And she does not do this with reluctance but, rather, she pursues it wholeheartedly, bravely. She requires no one else’s help finding the holes- she is independent enough to do it on her own now. And the fact that she has stripped down to her undergarments is indicative of more than just the fact that July in Arkansas is hot- it represents that she is, at last, ready to be completely honest about her past– with herself and with her past itself.

It is at this point she learns a hiding hole was discovered during the time that she was a prostitute, and it was robbed presumably by Tessie the prostitute. This theft represents what was stolen from Daniella during her time as a prostitute- her innocence and childhood, her peace of mind, her trust in men and even in women. And the losses are incalculable– she’ll never fully know what all was stolen because, of course, she never saw the contents of the hiding hole in the first place. This discovery could have crushed her, but she handled it with remarkable finesse, showing her own maturity. Not missing a beat, she analyzes the situation, determines what must’ve happened, and moves on to discovering the next hiding hole.

The next hole is located within minutes, and its contents are a delight. The items in that hiding hole- Isabella’s handwritten note, Paula’s rock collection, the Christmas bell, a pile of chocolate foils- represent purity, all that is natural (as opposed to the “unnatural” sexuality she was forced to perform), the whimsical innocence of children, and sweetness. Thus, in that discovery Daniella can see a glimpse of what was stolen from her childhood. But it also hits her in that moment that those things were stolen from her siblings as well, and she laments that they should not have grown up as she has now done. This, on her part, is an incredible sign of her maturity, that she should be able to comprehend how painful growing up can be, but that she should wish that her innocent siblings should have grown up anyway so that they could experience the joy therein derived.

Although it had been mentioned before this last discovery, this next event did not fully give birth, so to speak, until nearly the end of the series.

When the Deckers lived in the house, Mrs. Decker had discovered a hiding hole in the rear of the broom closet which contained a gift, among other things. The other things are not mentioned any further, but the gift is later opened.

All kinds of symbolism surrounds this particular discovery.

First, there’s the aspect of motherhood that the discovery of the gift represents. Mrs. Decker is the mother of numerous children. She is the living representation of Catrin, who had mothered numerous children in that house as well, and she and her husband served as “place holders”, that is, they lived in the house during the interim of Daniella’s official vacating it to the point when she had grown up and decided to return. The gift foreshadows that Daniella will, likewise, be a mother one day.

Secondly, the gift represents the aspect of marriageThe gift had been a birthday present from Catrin Cordero (Mami) to her husband Franco Cordero (Papi). Symbolically, Daniella later gives it to her husband, Nathan, as a gift for his birthday. The gift itself, once opened, is discovered to be a phonograph cylinder on which is recorded Mami performing a song for Papi. This in and of itself is a gift for Daniella, who gets to hear her mother’s voice nearly fifteen years after her death. This gift, a private message between a wife and husband, is enjoyed years later by an entirely different husband and wife. It represents how the story has come full circle from Daniella’s childhood as a child with many siblings, to her adulthood as a wife and as a mother with many children of her own.

The gift also brings in the element of music, which is key throughout the story. The fact that this gift was found hidden in the house for so many years shows that a song had been written on Daniella’s heart long before, one that she didn’t even know was hidden there but that laid dormant until she had reached the moment when she was ready to discover it. Nathan was ultimately the reason the gift was opened- and he showed Daniella how to play the phonograph, as well. It was because of him that the music of her soul was finally played. Although the story of Robert/Nathan and Daniella could have been written many different ways, it would always have had the same beginning and same ending. 

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