May 28, 2010

Goodbye, Gum Street

My good friend Francis is marrying a wonderful man, and she moved to his house today. They are making it their home, with elements of both traditions.

If her family and friends designed a fella for her, he would be funny, creative, smart, social, caring, and romantic. He would be Carlos.

My good wishes for these dear ones do come a little bit of regret as Francis leaves a home she lived in for nearly two decades.

When I visited her this morning before the moving van came, I was surprised at my own reaction. I have a history with this house, as well.

I've never had a sister, but she is my sister by choice. She is smart and tough, and those are two qualities I really admire. She has two real sisters, but hasn't thrown me out of her life (yet). We frequently disagree like real sisters, and she keeps coming back for more of my bad attitude and antagonism. That's a real sister, isn't it?

I have so many memories of the house. Francis and her children and her extended family, a great family who gathers and sings Beatles songs together while making pies.

Memories of good pot roast with tiny pearl onions. Of lots of kitchen table discussions about philosophy, religion, politics, social justice, food, books, art, more philosophy, and more religion. Of drinking lemonade on her spacious screened porch. Of her annual holiday party with her eclectic, educated group of friends.

When our son was five, I called on my friend to pick him up at daycare. Husband was teaching and I was at a conference on the far west side of our city. (She always bailed me out, and she was a single mother with two school-age children of her own. I should be bailing her out.)

Within an hour after she picked up my son, a tornado ripped through our city. Her garage, which covered a brand new mini-van, suffered the wrath of the storm when a neighbor's tree took it out. Son remembers this as a great adventure.

I remember going over there one day and saying, "What's
wrong with the cat?" She and her kids hadn't really noticed that poor Stubby was losing weight. I didn't see him every day. Poor Stubby was taken to the vet, and soon was lost to this world.

I remember not going upstairs in her house for more than two years when one of her son's snakes escaped his cage. I'm not sure the little beast was ever found (the snake, not her son) but I did go back upstairs at one point.

I remember going for dinner in January for her daughter's birthday. The snow was so deep and treacherous that we only made it to Walgreens to buy a present, which was something chintzy like crayons. Her daughter, an artist still, loved it.

I remember sitting outside with Francis when her mother was dying of cancer. The sadness and the loss was larger than the big shade trees that dressed her back yard. We both cried.

I remember when Francis had a serious surgery. She had to keep her leg elevated upon returning home, and I made her breakfast the next day. (She's a great cook, and I am not, so this is the high drama in this story. She survived the surgery and my breakfast.)

A week later, one of her dear brothers died unexpectedly of a heart ailment in his mid fifties. His death was one of those shock-waves that reverberates through even the most loving and stable families, with ripples outward like a stone thrown in a pond.

Throughout all of her life's ups and downs, her home has been a warm, steady anchor for her family and friends. Even with its crooked floor.

If she's home, the back door is open. Her house has always been a welcoming place, where one can bound in the door, check out the new photos on the fridge, see which nephew o is in town, and pull up to the kitchen table for a hot cup of coffee.

Au revoir, Gum Street. I'll miss you.