Friday, December 18, 2009

how two homes are defining me

yesterday, lisa, wyatt and i spent our first day in our brand new house. if everything goes well, this will be the house we spend the rest of our days in. it's been a long process to find it and countless signatures and faxes to make it ours, but now, the ink is dry, keys handed over and bank account emptied.

on the drive up from san francisco to san rafael for day #1, i suddenly got hit with a carousel of emotions. there was, of course, elation. and then, relief. and right after that, the realization of being overwhelmed, but in a good way. i looked in my rear view mirror and saw wyatt reading his book about elmo. that made me think about figuring out a way of saving my bookshelves so he'd be inspired to read more for when, you know, he learns how to read. so add worry to that list.

then, all of a sudden, i thought about my mom. and, more importantly, i thought about how proud she would be, now that after 35 years, i've finally got all my ducks in a row: wife, kids, work, home, happiness. that's every parent's dream. i dream of that for wyatt, and he's just 14 months old.

it really shook me up that i wouldn't have the opportunity to take her for a tour of my home and hear what she thought about it. it made me miss all the opinions and advice i wouldn't be able to extract from her.

i wouldn't be able to see her beaming with pride.

i cried a lot yesterday. most of my tears were born from happiness. those, however, were not.

fast forward one day and 2500 miles. we've just landed in new york from a redeye and it's forty degrees colder. dad picks us up at the airport and we're now in the home i grew up in - the spirit and inspiration of the home i hope to grow in california.

our only duty today is to decorate the christmas tree. this was a family tradition we had the day after thanksgiving while fighting a tryptophan hangover. dad would bring down the artificial tree and all the ornaments from the attic, and my brother and i would decorate. it was a family day, but it was really mom's day. she directed us on how the tree should look. we were just the vehicle of her imagination. and she would drive dad batty with how her christmas village would be laid out in the wall unit.

this day meant everything to her. it was her time to shine. and the boys in the house all got through it together, mostly because when it came to christmas trees and wall unit decorations, my mother rocked.

this year, the first christmas without mom, we convinced dad not to decorate the tree until we flew in to help.

it's been over ten years since i took part in the christmas tree decoration, but today felt seamless. i put the ornaments where i felt that mom would want them. i didn't literally hear her voice guiding me, but i just knew where to go instinctively. lisa did her job too, and even though she never got a chance to experience this with my mom, she does channel my mom at times, so she really didn't need any direction. my dad added the flair of tinsel that he never really liked but knew that my mom loved.

what would normally take us a full day wound up taking an hour or so. i'm looking at the tree right now, and it looks fine. the ornaments and tree and tinsel might be the same as it was last year and years past, but it's not the same. we did our best. it fits in. home is different without her.

what makes coming back to new york special, and now, bittersweet, is the imprint left by the people who live there. when i find a book in the seven bookcases, i feel my dad's imprint. when i spend time in the basement, i feel the imprint left by my time spent there with my brother and friends.

and when i look at the christmas tree, we're trying to follow the imprint my mom left. but it's not the same. her imprint turned christmas into her holiday, one blinking light at a time. but we did our best and that's an imprint of our own.

now we have an empty house to return to in san rafael. there's no imprints anywhere, a truly blank canvas. but that's okay, because through the years, what we do and how we do it will turn into traditions and stories. and they'll be borne, directly or indirectly, from the imprints we inherited from our parents. and although we might not be able to do things as well as they did, or as they would have wanted, it's still comes from the same place.

i'm not gonna be able to hear my mom's voice in my new home, but her imprint will always be felt. yes, we'll honor her with a special place, but where she's truly seriously impacted is already a big part of this house: me.

maybe next year, wyatt will help us decorate our own tree.

i miss you, mom. i hope i do you proud.