Thursday, December 31, 2015

A house that built us

It came into our lives by accident. My dad was out with an old friend when they passed a rundown house for sale, and he saw something there that nobody else did. When he brought my mother to see it, she was horrified but decided to trust whatever vision he was so keen on. So it was bought, between him and my brother. Then for three months he walked about making complicated drawings (and inflicting them via email on those who’d hoped Dubai would be a safe distance from the epicenter). He was practically eating and sleeping with a pencil and ruler, spent his days in huddles with masons, plumbers and electricians.

The rest of us hampered and hindered proceedings in our usual aggressive fashion. We fought at the dining table (the most favoured arena), in the car, on the phone and in hardware stores. Deciding on a simple kitchen tap could include every grievance - real or imagined - collected from birth. But there came a day when that dingy place was transformed into a thing of light and space, complete with pink bathroom for the daughter and blue one for the son. And we could fight afresh about furniture placement.

It has hosted a spectacular housewarming, a happy wedding, birthdays, anniversaries, parties of all kinds. It welcomed a wonderful daughter-in-law and grandchild. And a running stream of family and friends. It healed returning prodigals and sent them forth again. It had its fair share of slammed doors and “discussions” that require yelling and angry tears, and also much of the opposite. Not to mention the regular complement of poisonous snakes, squirrels, birds, bandicoots and dogs that have generally surrounded us (all as noisy and ungovernable as the human inhabitants).

The new owners plan to raze it and build anew. So the home remains intact, playing out the scenes in the photo albums until the end of time. A quiet guest who’s slipped away from the chattering dinner crowd is forever curled up on the beanbag in the book room upstairs. A close group of cousins or friends talk into the night on the balcony. My brother and I are sharing confidences, plotting and/or fighting in a continuous loop. No matter how far I go, I stand always in the doorway of the kitchen chattering to my mom, or the entrance to the “workshop” talking to my dad. And a large German Shepherd remains here, purposefully quartering the yard, from raintree to silver oak, bamboo to bougainvillea (with breaks to be fussed over like the world’s biggest puppy)

Now we look forward to arguing over setting up the dining table in a new place to continue the conversations that have fortified us all our lives, making our journeys possible.

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