At my parents’ house, we are little bored and a little worried. Mama has been sick. But let’s not talk about that, let’s talk about real estate.
No, let’s talk about homes.
“Home” and “house” aren’t synonyms, not at all.
Mama talks about the various houses she’s lived in. How she felt all warm and cozy always in her grandmother’s house. And then the house her parents had when she was little. They had to sell it during the Depression and later my father’s parents bought it. So the family lore goes, my parents met when Mama went trick or treating at her old house because her friend had old her there was a cute boy living at her house.
That cute boy—my father—slammed the door in her face. She was 13, and he was 12, thinking she was far too old to be trick or treating.
I showed Mama how Zillow works, how she can look at pictures and potential values of houses. I punched in her address and then the address of the home we moved to when I was five.
“What was the address on Myra Way?” I asked, the house they moved to when I was two.
“I can’t remember,” said Mama.
Fair enough, since they left it over 50 years ago. I’m studying the tiny print on the San Francisco map near Mt. Davidson. The house was on a corner, I remember that, and we had a fire hydrant. I skated into that fire hydrant as I was learning to skate. There’s a tiny scar on my cheek from that fire hydrant. I tell myself I’m the only one who knows it’s there.
“Daddy, what’s the address on Myra Way?”
“Don’t remember,” he says, “but it was at the corner of Myra Way and Reposa.”
“There it is! 670 Myra Way.”
The white house is familiar. It’s tiny —only 879 square feet, according to Zillow—and there on the corner is my fire hydrant. My parents bought the house for $12,000 and sold it for $14,000 two and half years later in1961. This being San Francisco, the current Zestimate is $860,000.
So funny to see this little house right there, waiting for me to find it.
Although I was five when we left, I remember a lot. My great-grandmother Ethel took care of me the night my brother Danny was born. A bit later he and I would play catch—he from his crib, me on my bed–with giant plastic pop beads. The back yard was steep and ivied and Mama and Daddy threw ice cubes at the neighborhood cats when they tried to violate my sandbox.
Our cat, a talky Siamese named Felicity, insisted on using a box in the house.
“This concrete here on the front was a really steep lawn,” said Daddy, “Quite difficult to mow.” Daddy and the push mower used to have regular arguments.
Daddy was in graduate school and I would take his studying papers, tossed in frustration at night, and write on them in the mornings, tracing math equations on the back side of his yellow lined papers. I used crayons sometimes, but match equations are better written in pencil or pen.
My little friends and I would taste the nectar from the fuchsia blooms that grew in profusion on the block.
All of these memories from a single image. In the background of course are hundreds of other homes.
Wonder if all of them are supported by memories near and far.