Back in rainy Northern Cal after a gorgeous week of spring sunshine on the East coast and am having no problem ignoring the cold and gloom. The truth is, I’m still flying high from being back in my old hometown (Washington D.C.). While the trees weren’t as far along as I’d expected, every bush, tree and flower that had ever even considered blooming was out in full force.
One of the highlights of the trip was the night I spent reading at Politics & Prose, Washington’s hands-down greatest bookstore. With more than a hundred people in the audience it was about ten times bigger than any other reading I’ve done. (Well, I guess there may have been more than ten readers at a couple of my readings… maybe.)
Many of my mother’s old friends were there which made the experience especially moving and – for once – I wasn’t nervous when I spoke. In fact, I actually… enjoyed it. I think I was just so damn happy to be in that exact spot, with those exact people and with a book – an actual published book – in my hands, that there was no room for nerves. It was just as it should be.
But the best part was going back to my old neighborhood – Cleveland Park – the next day and having the owners of my old childhood home graciously invite my sister and me in. (This, despite a sleeping baby on the couch and another adorable little girl eating her snack in front of the television.) Everywhere I looked, there were toys and overstuffed armchairs and warmly colored rugs – none of the austere 1970’s-modern furniture that used to be there. There was even color on the walls, something that shocked me for a moment as my mother always insisted on stark white.
The truth is, I never liked all that white. (Although, to be fair, my mother did occasionally venture out into blue — as in white with a thin edge of blue: the motif on all of our plates, bowls and napkins.) Also gone was the sense that the house was frozen in time; its bookshelves filled with children’s art projects made by people who hadn’t been children for thirty years; books and instruments that had sat untouched for decades. Even photos that one sensed hadn’t been looked at for years. Instead, the house felt lighter and happier, if still a bit eccentric with its crazy high ceilings, and oversized triangular windows.
Wandering back into the room that had once been my father’s art studio and then become my mother’s bedroom — the place where she died on a hot summer night nine years ago — I saw that they had turned it into a playroom with kid-sized chairs and couches, stuffed animals and art supplies. And I knew how pleased my mother would have been by this transformation.
Taking a final look, I realized how pleased I was as well, seeing how all this new life had moved in and filled the spaces where she once had been. It was exactly as it should be.
Causes Zoe FitzGerald Carter Supports
National Parkinson Foundation
The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
Michael J. Fox Parkinson's Foundation