Monday, February 02, 2009

if I had a hammer

Barn's burnt down--
I can see the moon.

When we first moved to California, we got an apartment that was a good apartment, one that we felt lucky to have landed – both because of the housing crunch at the time and the fact that prior to that we were living in a tent. Should I have to mention we had no jobs? – and me, the about-to-be-grad-student, with no prospects for getting one.

We stayed in that apartment for 5 and a half years. Longer than I can remember staying anywhere for quite some time. At about the five-year mark, I got antsy. Maybe we should move. I was aided in my thought process by a rat-bastard property manager that was dumber than mud and with whom I had multiple heated arguments. Most of them involved some invasion of privacy and loss of garden. We were renters in a majority owner-occupied condo complex and enthusiastically ignored. I've written poems about this experience. They aren't pretty.

Mike wasn't so sure about the move. I couldn't explain in any real terms why (besides the manager) I wanted out. It just seemed like maybe it was time.

After getting really ripped one night at the bar around the corner and complaining loudly about each of our neighbors as I gripped Mike's arm while teetering along the path back to our place, we decided it might indeed be that time.

We found a new place and voila! the move was on. Two months later our new landlord called to say she wanted her house back. And so began our next 5 years – move after move after move. My friends hauled away furniture while I lay curled on whatever soft thing was left, queasy as all get out, 6 weeks pregnant. Then, for Isaac's first two birthdays we celebrated by moving. If we refer to something in the past or if we look at pictures, Isaac will ask whether it was in the old house, the old-old house, or the old-old -old house.

Nowadays, we talk about the possibility of having our very own house some day. Of buying one or building one. When I first brought up the concept of buying a house, Isaac went pensive for a long time, then came the questions: “How will we get it home? Will it fit in Auntie Bridgett's truck?” Since then, my boy has moved along with us in our dream. Sometimes he'll tell me about how when he gets bigger we'll have lots of trees in the yard. And lots of grass and lots of garden. He'll show me just how crazy he'll run around when we have all that space. He speculates on how many pomegranate trees we will have in the orchard.

Not one to dismiss his history, however, Isaac has also started to talk about the time when he can come back to this house, “when this house is old.” Despite the fact that we have many fond memories accumulating in our current locale, pretty much all of Isaac's conscious ones, and are about to celebrate – imagine – his third birthday in a row! in this same house, he, quite frankly, can't wait to knock it down.

Demolition as high on his list of interests as building, he describes to me in detail the demise of our hearth and home. The windows is his room are going first, or, some days, the front door. BAM! SMASH! Down it will come – WHAMMO! Crumbling into tiny pieces under his direction and ambitious agenda. And then this wall, and the bathroom that mama's always hated anyway – VROOM! CRUNCH! All of it razed. He'll be using his current tools – sturdy colorful plastic numbers our friends Barb and Chris got him when he turned one, plus the piece of oak branch he uses for a jackhammer.

When I first arrived in Hungary in 1994 to take a job teaching English in a secondary school, a woman who remains a friend to this day, Anna, toured me around the city. It was an odd kind of circuit. Every so often, she'd point and say something like, “See that spot over there? There, where there's nothing. That's where the Lenin statue was.” “There?” I'd try to confirm, never sure I had the right spot of nothing picked out, scanning the plaza or bus station or street corner. “Yes,” she'd say, “There. Just there. You see?” “Uh-huh,” I'd say, not wanting to be disagreeable.

While the metaphor doesn't carry over so smoothly – our house is not a Lenin statue, not a representation of oppression and loss, sometimes you have to get things out of the way to move forward. Even things that aren't obvious obstacles. I'll admit I've started to fantasize about when this house no longer stands – in the figurative sense – hoping (because we're allowed that emotion now) that this will be the last one we can't paint the walls of, the last one we look at on moving day and say, “Why wasn't it ever this clean when we lived here?” Maybe it's no Lenin, but it's one in a line of rentals, a line of not-ours. Maybe the last one.


bobbie said...

I like this post very much. I'm glad that Isaac now shares your dream

Anonymous said...

Tell Izzy that it surely will fit in Auntie Bridgett's truck... if it won't, we'll squish and smash it until it does! -Brig.

Share Related Posts with Thumbnails