I am on the train south, to Baltimore. My parents have moved from my childhood home, the home where I grew up, lost my first tooth, had my first drink, the home were I marked my height along the edge of my bedroom door each birthday, their home for over twenty-five years. A quarter of a century in a single place seems impossible, a sort of bygone and arcane approach to living life. For me, though, it still seems bizarre, untrue, surreal, that I, my body, my being, my mind, has been in existence for over a quarter of a century, smelling, tasting, feeling, speaking, thinking. I travel down to see the new house, only a handful of miles away from the suburban community that was my playground for those years. In that enclave of typical housewife ennui and over-achievement, I forged my first friendships, other girls who were curious and afraid and confident and unsure; some of these friendships I still nurture, still cherish. My friends, my foes, from years of lanky proto-adolescence, from the high school war zone of hormones and emotions brilliant and sharp like diamonds, some have never left this place. Have they found solace, satisfaction, challenge in the pattern, the smooth continual oscillation in the same trajectory of their parents?
My brother sends me a photograph of the old house, now empty. It is a classic Dutch colonial, one of the first built in the development, wise and proud. I have not been back since the Christmas holidays; I did not enter the threshold for a final time, for that last walk through familiar halls and familiar rooms, a suckling of nostalgia, of tastes both bitter and sweet. Certainly, by this point, pieces of our childhood, now forgotten, by me, by him, by our parents, have been discarded; donated to those less fortunate, hauled off to the local dump by a blue-collar stranger with a big truck looking for some extra cash. The rest is packed, organized, compartmentalized, the physical mirroring our memories. Plastic Barbie dolls intertwined in a dark cardboard casket, shards of rainbow Legos rattling, game boards, old books.
I have not cried, at least, not yet, not over this. Uncharacteristic.
The new house is stone, steadfast. Out back, behind, a grass meadow stretches; from recent violent storms, it is lush and green, verdant victory. The sun sets, dark descends, and the lightning bugs emerge, just like they did years ago, when we were small, our hands folding to make tiny fists, when we chased them in crazed vector paths, hoping to capture their brilliance in old glass jar, contain it forever.
(image taken from 16 Sparrows)