In August I said goodbye to my childhood home.
I say my, as if I was the only one staying there, but these are mostly my recollections tripping over one another in order to be shared.
My first memory is of us girls, ages 4-7-10 running up the carpeted stairs and staring in wonder at the double sink in the master bathroom. When we arrived, it was a new house with my older sister getting a room for the first time, while Trisha and I embraced the bunk bed (though we all really cuddled together at the bottom bunk saying our prayers while holding each other’s ears for comfort). But bit-by-bit we transformed the house as we transformed ourselves.
My mother and father created wonderlands—circuses, and our vision of Disney’s Aladdin, with sari palaces and canopies in our unfinished basement. My cousins remembered the time we used soap instead of dishwasher detergent creating a sudsy surprise for slip-and-slide skating. The ever-present mice and birds that like to seek out warmth in the kitchen vent as if they could tell that this was where shelter could be found—sometimes, unfortunately, to a morbid end. The old, rickety, trees in front—one of the first things to go with the new owners—providing privacy and shade from strolling neighbors and playing kids. My Dadaji (my mom’s dad) sitting on that same front porch, leaning back on his last visit, a small smile on his face. Coming home from high school to find my uncle (in another SURPRISE VISIT) on a swing moving back and forth, back and forth, in our backyard while patiently waiting for someone to come home. The three baby pictures in line with our sixteen year old glamour shots where we are wearing a sari for the first time. Or the one where my eyes look like they are about to pop out of my face, so determined was I to not blink.
My Dadi (my dad’s mom) braiding my hair and calling me out when I did not brush my teeth. My head resting on the dinner table as I fell asleep reading. Closets where we would hide when voices were raised, and navigating our changing ages with bitter words as three sisters could only fight, before we made up again. Folk dance practices—Garba, Dandiya, the Naga Dance, or learning to twist our hands and bodies as we gripped the diya’s that would soon be aflame. A gathering place for friends: where mom taught them how to cook, and sometimes with only an hour’s notice, dressed them up to celebrate Navratri. The wall with predictable height marks, a passage of time.
Parties that lasted long into the night where uncles and aunties would sing Kabhi Kabhi Mere Dil Me and discuss the songs of Mukesh while we slumbered above. Me—coming home from college to paint walls a dark forest green or the yellow-orange of Seville, looking for ways to stamp out my own ownership as an adult. Watching the neighborhood grow, sledding into the pit that would become 7100. My sister’s Pithi and later baby shower, and as our family grew, sleeping on couches and living room air mattresses while basking in the increased decibels of my nieces and nephew. One niece in the Santa hat walking away with her baby hips swaying and an attitude as she tells us a story. The other niece and nephew mixing paints a year into the pandemic and drawing trees as they discussed their favorite colors. A bucolic street address, and a land line phone number that everyone had memorized. A beacon, a resting place after school and work, a place I traveled toward even when I left for my own adventures in a new space. A place where our lives intersected with others, a bond that does not simply disappear as we closed this particular door and handed over the keys.
Over thirty years of memory is not so easily lost.
Home is an ever-fixed mark.
Like love, a star to every wandering bark.
It may change geographic locations, and you may not live where you used to dream, but when replaced it remains a phantasmagoria.
A space that lives within our minds eye,
as a carrier of all that you experienced,
and all that you became
as you stood within its walls.