I just returned from a week at my parents' house and it was full of bittersweet moments.
There were several motives behind the trip. First, it was time to drop niece Kati off at the dorms of San Francisco State University. She is such a cool chica and one of the best old-school tattoo illustrators I've ever seen. (She's not inking skin, but she's famous for her Sharpie marker tattoo transformations on her pals).
Then we met friend Mo's little baby who is an absolute doll. That was my original reason to go up. Getting our kids together was this amazing arc that celebrated our lives. Our parents had grown up together in Oakland, and we grew up together and now our kids were rolling around together on the lawn. (The lawn at my brother's house which he shares with his wife Suzanne who was Mo's roommate who became my roommate who fell in love with my brother who is now my friend/sister in law and mother of my
beautiful niece. Got that?) I bought matching leopard outfits for the three baby girls and we did a sassy girl photo shoot which was akin to herding cats.
These were the fun moments. Then I totally screwed everything up by sticking my nose where it didn't belong.
I was looking for something in my parents' fridge when I got the brilliant idea to check the expiration date on everything in there and dispose of what I deemed inedible and a threat to public health.
This is an annoying and intrusive habit I have when I go back home, and it bugs the holy crap out of my mom. I've never taken her protestations seriously because I thought that deep down inside she was grateful for the clearing. I look at it as the forest fire of household organization.
Lots of destruction but look how clean the hill is!
Well, she didn't appreciate it and found nothing amusing or helpful with my actions. In fact she was pissed.
So she said something, then I said something then she felt bad then I felt bad...
I can't tell you how badly life sucks when you go all this way to see family and then something happens that casts a wet blanket on the festivities.
AND... it was all my fault.
I was feeling rejected and misunderstood, the whole routine I play in my head when I don't want to 'fess up that I was at fault.The painful lesson I learned was that:
1. I grew up in that house but it doesn't belong to me. It belongs to my parents.
2. How they choose to keep their fridge is their business, not mine.
3. Unless asked, I am not to offer helpful gestures or unsolicited advice.
Really what happened was that at age 39 I realized that the apron strings no longer fit. I have my own home, my own family. I am not the little girl of the family, I am not cute little Nancy who can throw stuff out then justify it with a wink and a giggle. My mom is the matriarch of her home and I'm not.
This may sound like duh and obvious, but it was something different for me. I never considered my parents' home just theirs. I felt like I still had a stake in it.
I still have my high school yearbooks in a closet there, I still have a portfolio of beginning paintings in a closet. There are probably tons ofother things I have stashed around there, but when push comes to shove, it's their house.
I felt homeless and alone and absolutely devastated for a while. I had a lot of feelings to work out. I talked to a good friend and wrote. I drove up and down the MacArthur Freeway playing the scenario out in my head. Then later that evening I called my mom and apologized.
That was another huge deal but it healed me.
Although I physically moved out of that house over twenty years ago, my head still resided there. The result of this trip was to collect the last of my emotional bags and bring them home to where I am now. I think of the transitions that occurred over this week: niece to college, girlfriends to momfriends, child to adult.
Home is where the heart is, they say.
I thought it was in that green house I grew up in...
I guess it's wherever I decide it to be.