From the pebbled pavement of Oxbow Drive, the house is pretty, but unremarkable. Constructed in the 1970’s, when aluminum siding was all the rage, this house is baby-blanket blue with brick around the door and the downstairs windows. The faded shutters were white at one time, but now long for some fresh paint. It is a house that suggests security and family and normalcy, reflecting the sort of middle class life desired by all baby boomers whose parents survived the Depression. Today, the house on Oxbow Drive is pleasing, but it does not stand out the way it did for my parents twenty years ago, when their realtor was showing them a different house in the neighborhood, and they stopped the car in front of this one instead.
The front yard is great for sledding. The steep green hill turns brown and frozen in the winter, and we spent snow days sailing down it on blue plastic Kmart sleds. We were not gentle children, and those sleds rarely survived the winters. When the sleds were ripped or bent or just plain tired and of no use to us, we resorted to using bright orange and yellow cafeteria trays stolen from school.
No longer blooming are the flowers that were so important to my father. If we still lived here, his fuchsia and tangerine impatiens would line the front walk. Bouncy mums would border the two trees standing guard down near the street.
On the left side of the yard, almost reaching the neighbor’s property, a weary rock stands nearly three feet tall. Moss has begun to take it over and bugs have claimed its cracks and caves for their homes. For us, it was the perfect launching pad for jumps, leaps, and occasionally a bold back flip.
That tree with the hesitant winter leaves was once a twig in the ground that I named Emily. My father enclosed her in a protective wire fence of white, and before I even entered high school, she outgrew it. We silently peeled back the inadequate wire and watched her become a tree.
Strange to think I cannot go in. Strange that I cannot park in the driveway, walk up the three long stone steps to the front door, and let myself into the house. Strange that I am not at home. All I can do is sit in the car on a quiet Saturday morning, gazing at my past, which does not look the way I left it.
They sold the house for less than they wanted to, but my parents were anxious to pack up and begin their retirement at their fabulous new condo on the golf course in Myrtle Beach. It seems my sisters and I have reached that part of our lives where going home has changed. When friends ask what we’ll be doing for holidays, we’ll say “going to see my parents” rather than “going home.” Myrtle Beach is not my home. I have no connection to that fabulous new condo. There isn’t a tree named Emily, and I never spent the summer evenings there, outside in the calm dusk, digesting a late supper and watching the nothingness of our block.
On Oxbow Drive I watched my sisters play tag in the front yard and build forts in the cluster of trees in the back. I tormented babysitters and lobbied for a telephone in my bedroom. This house witnessed life and death and as I sit on the outside of it, I wonder, does it recognize me? There are new curtains on the bay window in the living room. My mother’s wreath on the front door has been replaced with a duck holding a welcome sign. What pieces of us still hover there, drifting through the air or buried in the carpets or cuddling with the dust gathering in the window sills?
When we were young, we woke up well before our parents on Saturdays and Sundays. Those early hours waiting for them to rise were spent playing wiffle ball or kickball downstairs in the den. We were not gentle children, so all of us playing sports in a room that housed a television and lamps, an antique radio and even a wet bar was dangerous. However, I don’t remember breaking anything. What strikes me now is that the room was ever large enough for makeshift bases and home plate and our running bodies. But we were smaller versions of ourselves then, and everything was grander.
Causes Cari Oleskewicz Supports
Doctors Without Borders