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My dad was heavily involved in the local Portuguese Chamber of Commerce, culminating in his year as President a few years before he died. When word spread that he was terminal, they decided to rename their annual Day in the Park after him. My mom took a more active role in the chamber after he died (which I think mainly involves weekly meetings with a bunch of my dad’s friends that are actually happy hours).

They interviewed my cutie patootie mom for a news segment.

Related: Now I’m starving.

One of her old recipe books has a category just for Spam. MY MOM’S OLD RECIPE BOOK HAS A CATEGORY JUST FOR SPAM.

Growing up we had a huge tree in our yard. It was everything you wanted in a tree: lots of branches for climbing and swinging from branch to branch like a monkey (when I was 4 I wanted to grow up to be a trapeze artist), very leafy so you could hide in the center and have privacy because you had the Meanest Parents In The World who wouldn’t build you a treehouse, and it even bore fruit (the lychee). That tree was alternately my space ship, my reading nook, my jungle gym, my hiding place during hide-and-seek, my all-in-one activity center. When I was about 13 or so my parents cut it down, for reasons I understand now – it was overgrown (the branches were dangerously close to growing into our house), not bearing good fruit, and the roots were too close to the house and they feared it would cause structural damage if left alone. I didn’t understand those reasons at the time, and even though I was WELL past the age of ever climbing that tree – and hadn’t done so for years – I was heartbroken when that tree came down. For a long time my house just didn’t look right without that monstrosity blocking most of the view of the house from the curb.

I am, as it turns out, sentimental.

Now my mom is selling that house. The house they moved into a year before I was born, and therefore the only house I ever lived in growing up. The house where I would wake up at 5am on Christmas Day, unable to sleep because of the fluttering-in-my-chest excitement about what Santa had brought. The house where my brother and sister would come home from college to and I would run into their arms because it was thrilling to have them home and have siblings around, even though they drove me crazy. The driveway where I learned to ride a bike, and where my cousin convinced me that if I lay on my stomach on a skateboard while he propelled me it would be The Most Fun Ever, and I ended up with one entire side of my face rubbed raw from the concrete when I predictably slid off the skateboard. The house where I slammed doors and rolled my eyes as a teenager. The bedroom I had next to the kitchen with the walls thin enough that I could hear my parents’ coffee percolator in the mornings from my bed as I snuggled under the covers and totally lied to my mom when she called through the door to make sure I was up and getting dressed for school. The living room where I rigged a Chinese jump rope between two chairs in an attempt to play by myself even though every single time one of the chairs would topple over on me (there is actually a picture somewhere of my dad trying to jump rope with me between the two chairs – priceless). The house where my dad died. The house with the ginormous hutch/buffet thing with a mirrored back (sidebar: when I was around five and at some summer day camp program, I found an obnoxious ring in the park and one of the teachers said “you found a diamond ring!” and because I watched a lot of TV and therefore knew everything about everything – except what diamonds actually looked like, apparently – and remembered seeing on TV that diamonds would cut glass mirrors, the first thing I did when I got home was scratch a square into the mirror of the hutch to prove that my found ring was really a diamond. To my five-year-old eyes, that square was HUGE. I tried to hide it behind a picture but of course my mom found it and was livid. Years later on a trip home from college I caught a glimpse of it and the scratched square looked so tiny, much smaller than it was in my memory. The hutch is a built-in and so will be staying with the house. Those new owners aren’t going to even get why that square is simultaneously hilarious and mortifying and what if they replace it with a new, unscratched mirror?!)

The house in the neighborhood where my great-grandparents bought a ton of property and divided it amongst their family so that my neighborhood growing up was filled with aunts, uncles, great-aunts, grandparents, cousins, more aunts, more uncles, more cousins. The house that only two families have lived in – my great-grandparents, and us. Over 100 years of my ancestors and relations in various houses in the small part of our street, as the older relatives passed away and their descendants would inherit houses. Over time, especially with my generation, properties have fallen out of the family, so to speak. More and more “strangers” have moved in as people die and their children have moved out of state or choose to sell rather than move back to the neighborhood. But through all this, there has always been my house, with my gramma’s small house right next door, and my uncle (mom’s younger brother) kind of in-between theirs in a sort-of cul de sac.

And now it’s going to be gone, essentially. Some retired couple from Colorado is going to be living in my house. MY house. And unlike the tree, I am old enough to really understand my mom’s reasons for selling. The house and lot are huge – HUGE – and it has been too much for her to keep up with on her own for some time now. It’s just too big for one person, especially a woman in her 70s who would benefit from a one-level house. I get all that. But it doesn’t help the slight tightening of the chest and the pin pricks behind my eyes when I think about that house not being ours, even though there isn’t enough money in the world to make me want to move back to my hometown and live in that house again. Emotions, they are a funny thing.

I scraped together what money we could afford and booked a last-minute trip home. The timing is less than ideal (I get back one day before my father-in-law arrives for Thanksgiving and my house is a pit), but I couldn’t NOT go. I’m getting on a plane tomorrow (my first plane ride in two years) to presumably help my mom finish packing things up, but really to say goodbye to my house. And even though I will be back to my hometown several zillion more times in the future, this feels like the last time I will ever be going HOME. To my house. To my neighborhood. Next time it will probably be in Mom’s new house, with unfamiliar nooks and crannies and new furniture and certainly an unfamiliar neighborhood (in a part of town that hadn’t even been developed when I lived there). I will be a guest in my mom’s house, rather than going home to stay with my mom in my old childhood bedroom. And it sucks. And I don’t like it. Even though I know it’s the right decision for her.


March 2019
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I said what?