Last December, they renovated my lolo & lola’s house in order to sell it. My mom showed us pictures online. Everything is gone. Everything is clean. Under the skin of the new house I sensed the bones of the old. The only thing they kept was the sprawling potted plant in the fireplace. Nobody ever used the fireplace; the plant never budged, perhaps out of protest. Something in me stuttered at the sight of those stubborn leaves on the newpainted stone. I thought, this will never stop happening. Places I know will become places I remember, and those in turn will shift into places I have lost.
I could guide anyone through my memory of that house, run their hands along the walls with my eyes closed. I could say, reach out here and touch that radio and feel the placemat stick to your hands. I could say, here the sewn tapestry of the last supper, here the tennis ball, here the birdcage long emptied of canaries. I could say, Shh. Lola is still sleeping. Lolo has gone out to play tennis. Pierre’s at work. I could say, everything is perfectly still. Close your eyes and press your face into the curtains until the lace tattoos your cheek. This couch, royal blue and velvet and failing springs, was the oldest thing in the house when my mom was 10. But it, like all living things, will die. I could say, rest. Watch the birds shift powerlines. This is a quiet that will never come again.
And we won’t get it back. How quietly she crept down the hall. The shape of him sleeping in that courduroy chair. For no reason, I associate sitting in the dining room with the kind of exhaustion you feel after having cried for a long time.
I am mourning the house more than I ever mourned them, because to my mind it contained them long after they were gone. A house is a vessel for home. Home is a vessel for people. And this vessel has been tossed on the roaring sea that stung us on Christmas Eve as we drove to the zoo with the windows down.
It’s not even that I miss this space, this house mapped out in my memory. But i didn’t know it was there before, and now I do. And more than that, now it is nowhere else but in my memory. I must be growing up. I am aware, for the first time, of that which will not return.