Coming Home

15 11 2010

It’s always a bit like coming home. Maybe that is because it IS coming home, as close to it as it gets for me. I have known this condo in South Florida for ten years, though I have no real emotional ties to the geographic region in which it is located.

Nothing in particular binds me to this sprawling, non-descript city with a beach except these four walls and what rests within them. No friends whose birthdays I need to remember, no social activities I need to plan around, no neighbors I could rely on in an emergency.

If I would have had the choice, I would not have put this place in pink plastic flamingo South Florida. But it is here and I have made my peace with that. I’m not too proud to admit Florida might just actually be growing on me. In a way I have come full circle – born just a few miles south of here, fled far and wide, and now as an adult I return again and again.

Florida, flamingos & me.

When my father died in 2007, I was reluctant to clear out his condo and sell it. It seemed too brutal to erase a man’s earthly existence within a week of his passing in order to save a couple of hundred dollars a month in maintenance fees. The wounds were fresh and his spirit still lingered. A year later the real estate market had crashed and selling was out of the question – even if I had been ready to. I’m still not ready.

It used to be a place I visited my father, and now it’s the only place in America I can call home. Faded, yellowing family photographs still hang on the walls – I hardly recognize my smiling, 4-year-old self, complete with long blond pigtails, sitting in a sky-blue photo studio. The oriental carpets I have been walking on since I was 12. The artwork we bought on a family vacation. A reupholstered TV-chair that reclines to almost horizontal. My big sister’s sofa. The black-and-white snapshot of my father as a successful manager, posing with foreign dignitaries in whose faraway country his corporation had just established a subsidiary and created jobs. The only kitchen table we as a family have ever known. And a million other things. Inside each is locked a memory or two.

It doesn’t matter what happens out there, beyond the balcony where my father and I spent hours philosophizing over gin and tonics or red wine, solving the world’s problems, and suppressing our own. These days, R. and I sit on that same balcony, sip the same drinks, plan our present and our future together: Should we go to the beach? What’s for dinner? And what about that work project I have to get done by next Wednesday? What will become of us, after all?

My father’s spirit is still around, I feel him here. Maybe that’s why it is always so wonderfully comfortable to come home and so terribly difficult to leave again. Every time.

Happy hour on Pa's balcony.



2 responses

16 11 2010

Thank you for sharing this memory of your dad whom I never got to meet, it is like a little window into you :-).

Are you ‘home’ now? Wish we could see you … Jean and David here for Thanksgiving, love to share a bottle or two of wine with you & R.

16 11 2010
Ironic Mom

How beautiful is this post! I think you’re right: if there’s any value to things, it’s definitely that they are a gateway to memory.

Someday I’ll see your Florida digs!

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