In the morning, my eyes open quickly to the dazzling sunlight pouring in past the open blinds. Some days, it takes me a moment to get my bearings--mind rifling through the categories of thought...old paper files fluttering, memories rising and falling in the gauzy curtains--until I place myself, a woman not a little girl...the mother not the child...the lover and not the Romantic gazing out onto the sleeping streets with a powerful mix of longing and joy in the neighbor's veiled window-glow.
This is home. I rise from bed and descend the squeaking stairs. Kettle of Chai goes on before I am even fully awake. I think of my mother's steeping mug of morning tea on the creamy countertops. That fragrance perfumed my childhood and calms me, even now. Bare feet on the scarred wooden floorboards--here where the piano was dragged out the front door--there where my high heels scuffed on an awkward prom night a lifetime ago.
My mother's azaleas bloom in the front garden bed...the shed my father built the summer I was born falls into ruin against time and the elements in the backyard. My younger brother's handprints are fixed in the cement around the deck posts...my sister's angrily carved missive, "I want to go to Spain." still scrawls on the underside of the table where we eat every meal. Up the block, my older brother's name is inked onto a lightpost in his looping messy script...my refrigerator still holds a talisman of his generic brand cream soda now almost eighteen years old--the last of a case he never finished. At night, when M. and I tuck under our covers and whisper to one another--only I am aware of a remembered ghost whose bedroom this still really is to me. I remember my brother latching this same door for silence and forcing open he same stubborn screens on warm evenings. I pick up laundry on the pine floor and there is a dark stain bled into the wood from where my brother dropped his gentian violet foot medicine bottle, spilling it over the now ripped-out brown carpet to wound me on sight these many years later.
My children play in bedrooms that were once mine. The baby's was the lavender and lace of age six or seven. The boyo's was the peach and map of the world wall from adolescence. The one now was mine then, reclaimed years after my brother's death when I was bold and terrified--painting his paneled walls brilliant white, trying not to cry. It is my mother's bulbs I unearth in the garden when I am planting my own flowers. My father's old wiring confounds M. each time he tries to hand a new lamp or change out an electrical socket.
I was the girl who dreamed of a gypsy life--India, the Amazon, Kenya, Australia, the wilds of London, Paris, and Rome's craggy marbled streets. Everest, Egypt, Aztec ruins and cave diving in tropical blue waters. This--the world--was where I thought I would live. I'd send back smeared postcards from each stop...torn journal pages recording my path...my passport a veritable scrapbook of a vagabond's dreams.
But, here I am. Where I live is the house I grew up in...purchased from my mother a year after the birth of my son. The walls exhale and I breathe in the old stories. The sounds of my parents fighting downstairs or joking in the kitchen...my older brother's blaring stereo shaking the teeth in my jaw...my sister's laughter curled into a comma at the bottom of the steps with a phone pressed to her ear...my younger brother's rich newborn cry. These echo for me now when my husband cranks up the speaker volume, when the telephone glues itself to Petunia's giggling mouth, and the boyo and Rosie argue loudly in the entryway, their voices cutting through time.
Why I live where I live is a question my words cannot begin to explain. Every day, I evolve from daughter to sister to mother to lover to adult and back again. Spanning the past and present when I sit and sip my tea, each moment feels weighted and pregnant with meaning. If these walls could talk...they'd tell me of things I already know like the backs of my hands, the taste of my mouth, and the view from my bittersweet bedroom windows at night.
Sunday Scribblings: Why I live where I live