The Little Yellow House That Was Home
My dad sent me this picture along with a caption a few days ago: “The 3 family house we brought you home to, in 1983.”
(He sent this picture to my email from his phone as a text, my brothers and I can’t for the life of us figure out how he does this, or why he seems to be the only one who can. ) I get a message or a phone call about this house almost every time my dad drives by it, as he goes about his life. As a child he used to drive me by this house if we were in the neighborhood, and pull over to tell me the story. These days, every few years he will call me as he drives by, or send me a text (to my phone), or he will tell me about the house and the day they brought me home from the hospital the next time we talk. He likes to tell me about this house, and that day in July, in 1983.
He always tells the same story, but each time he tells it, he focuses on different details, things that over time morph and become more important in his memory of the very early days of being a father. But each time he tells me about the day I came home, the house frames the story. My dad likes houses, they are his livelihood and the cornerstones of his memories and aspirations. He likes to tell me that the house was painted a light yellow when he and my mom brought me home, and that the banisters around the porch were sturdy. He tells me about the shape and style of the doors of our second floor apartment and how they had to worry about me falling down the steep and narrow stairs. He tells me how happy they had been in that house, how proud, even though looking back on it now, the house doesn’t seem that impressive or that neat. Was the house better looking back in 1983? Or were they just young enough to see it that way? Does it matter?
As a child I always reveled in my dad’s attention and the obvious joy that spread across his face when he reminisced about us being littler than however old we were at the moment. That joy is something I understand now, as an adult and as a mother, as I received the mysterious picture text to email from my dad the other day.
The picture of the familiar little yellow house that my dad has driven me by, pointed out, called me to talk about and sent me picture of, made me think about my own kids and how 6 years with them has gone by in a heartbeat and how quickly 32 years must have gone by for my dad.
The little yellow house and my dad’s dedicated nostalgia make me wonder what will frame my own most dearly held memories of my kids being babies. How will I remember the sweet moments in my life when the edges of time are blurry, the cheeks are soft and the biggest concerns you have for your child are keeping them safe from sharp objects and pokey corners? I can already feel myself grasping at their childhood like I’m afraid of falling off the edge. My oldest is 6 and although she is still very small and completely innocent, like a handful of sand I can sense the first few grains of her will start to fall from my protection if I hold on too tight. Thankfully I still have the baby, with the chubby thighs and the walk of a drunken sailor, but experience tells me that I will wake up every morning from now until she turns 5 and wonder where her cheeks have gone until they have disappeared completely. And that those cheeks will be gone in the blink of an eye.
Is that what the little yellow house means to my dad? Is he remembering a time in life that seemed so unbelievably difficult in the moment, but in retrospect was the sweetest and most innocent? Does the house signify the excitement of being young, and not knowing where life will take you? Does he see the big dreams he had, and all the things he had yet to accomplish? Does he feel a combination of pride, joy, and that gut wrenching longing for glimpse of a moment long gone? I imagine he does. I imagine the little yellow house also reminds him of that moment when you fall in love with someone so small and helpless, so completely, that you never recover and are never the same. Will I remember the dumpy apartment my husband and I brought our first born home to, in that way? Am I still too deep in the long days – short years time, to see it clearly?
To me, the little yellow house that my dad so adores is a reminder. A reminder of the power of love, how it endures, how it grows and how bringing the tiny and helpless home for the very first time, changes you forever. I hope my dad never stops picture texting to my email about this little yellow house, however it is that he does that.