Today is my parents’ anniversary. It’s cold outside, but bright and dry, easier weather than they had on their wedding day.
This past May, after 10 months of real estate craziness (which would have been funny if it were someone else’s reality show), Babette and I closed on their house, 21 Hazelton Rd. Dima and Omar, thirty-something parents of two little boys (and like my parents first- generation Americans, first-time home buyers) had been living with family nearby on Gailmor. They were excited and seemed ok, but we would have sold the house to Attila the Hun–or Mitt Romney (likely it’s smaller than his car elevator).
And as all past events seem inevitable (to me), so does the closing. It was inevitable we’d end up in that small glass-walled conference room in a bank, next to a nail salon, in an Ardsley strip mall, inevitable we’d sign our names, relinquishing our childhood home.
After, Babette and I had lunch in Dobbs Ferry at Tomatillo (located, it says on the menu, in Texchester–ha, ha) because our favorite, Juniper, in Hastings, is closed on Tuesdays. We felt grateful to be done with the bills (Con Ed, water, insurance) and to have gotten out before Yonkers, suffering financially like countless other American municipalities, raises taxes to fill its draining coffers.
Initial relief–it had been a long slog, a heavy lift emotionally and literally (decades of stuff, upstairs and down that needed to be saved, donated or discarded)–gave way over the months to unexpected sadness with the need to re-callibrate my self image: I’m a homeless orphan, somehow still from Yonkers, although I’ve lived in my loft in New York much longer than I lived in my parents’ house. (Yonkers, notable for next to nothing, made film news twice this year–Alamo Drafthouse opened a theater on Central Avenue and an early Orson Wells’ film, “Too Much Johnson,” believed lost but recently discovered in a warehouse in Pordenone, Italy, and restored at Eastman House, features Joseph Cotten as a womanizer from Yonkers.)
Robert Frost famously wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.” Mostly it’s not the physical house I miss but the sense of safety, continuity, love. But sometimes in a kind of pre-consciousness I forget that the place isn’t still ours. At a screening of Ozu’s great “Late Spring,” at Film Forum in July, a brief glimpse of the father reminded me of 12-button, navy blue wool sailor pants that both Joan and I had in Binghamton. And in a process light-speed quicker than it can be described, I thought, “those were great pants, maybe they’re in that mess in the back room in the basement, oh, right, didn’t see them when we cleaned out and donated the clothes and Grandma’s fabric to the Vietnam Veterans of America,” and finally, “we sold the house.”