There are times, and this is one of them, when the rug is pulled out from under you. This is the second time. It’s not a good sign. But it might be a wake-up call. It is. Really, it is.
It’s not easy to write about. So I won’t. I’ll just allude. You might get the picture; you might not. I don’t care. This is cathartic for me.
My mother and father are ace. Stubborn at times, yes. But ace. They have thousands of stories to tell of their youth, of their growing into adulthood, of their meeting in St. Louis on a rooftop terrace, an English actress and an Argentine architect who at that time was a bohemian sculptor and the terrace his workspace and the beautiful actress his muse. That’s how my mind has constructed the story and so it is just like that. Years went by before they were married in England. My two eldest sisters attended the wedding and my two brothers and I came years later when the family had moved from New York City to Los Angeles. My father went Zen and tai chi. My mother turned the house into her stage, and we took care of the set design act after act and always eclectic (or messy, if that helps construct the picture of a one-floor house sagging under the giddiness of five growing children). My mother’s theatrical voice lulled us into the wonderful world of books until she started nodding off with sleepiness and reciting utter nonsense and we (at least my two older brothers. I was long gone in the land of sleep by then) said, “MUM!” so that she would start reading again until she trailed off once again. “MUM!”
We laughed and the house became our playground and we rode Big Wheels and bikes and skateboards through it and onto the street and beyond into a city that still was thought good for kids, before it was deemed too dangerous and slim in educational or career-advancing value as it is now, merely a means for getting to extracurricular activities in contained settings. We roamed and explored and experimented and grew. And our parents stood by us and kept us going, emotionally and physically (my mother does an excellent green-pea soup and, my favorite, a shepherd’s pie). My father took us to sports, racing around the city between leagues, tournaments and requests for something new, bass lessons and drums. The garage became our clubhouse and our stage for putting together punk songs with other kids from the neighborhood. It stored a massive wooden stage that on weekends was transported for gigs by the real punks at the West L.A. Federal Building and beyond only to never come back and in moved Dad’s architectural studio and my desk for university studies and attempts at making it as a writer. We roamed and explored and experimented and grew. We went on holidays. Many holidays, a more valued option to spend Dad’s income than home repair or big TVs or even a new car that would actually make it over the Grapevine section of the Golden State Freeway. We kept going. We ran out of gas. We waited on the side of the road. But we went. And that was what was important. And that is what has filled our heads with memories of bears breaking into the canvas to get the food off the top of our car in Yosemite, of skipping stones on a slow river in Big Sur, and of visiting my mother’s sister and her family in Colorado Springs and skiing for the first time, me backwards and then bombing straight down the hill until my sister suggested that maybe I could do a few turns. We kept going. We woke up Dad at 6 a.m. for dawn patrols up and down the California coast, searching for the best surf. The house was our cheer. It was comfortable and good and wild. It was homey. It was what we needed. There was little reason to leave.
But then we left, one by one and in our own ways and times. The house emptied except on occasions when we returned. Special times. And sometimes tense. But always special. We went home on our own and then with our partners and our children who found out for themselves about the Wendy House and the paths around the house that were for secret agents by day and spooks by night. They listened in awe at my mother’s theatrical voice reading stories. They watched Dad do his tai chi. And they walked down the very sidewalks and streets that were our starting points in life. But the house and the streets have changed and they are changing. They are not the same and we are growing old. It’s happening. And I think it has caught all of us unaware. A tap on the door. A loud knock. A wakeup call. A realization. Our parents are old and our youth is behind us. And I am so far, far away in my house in a pine forest on the beach of Argentina.