At times I wonder why I left.
I ask myself if “exploring” could mean a Southie apartment with friends or “taking a chance” has to mean uprooting the familiar and planting yourself in the unknown.
I don’t really know the answers to these questions and I don’t know if I ever will.
I took a long drive in my mom’s car the other night before meeting up with some hometown friends. A new Nordstrom Rack and Saks Fifth Avenue replaced the old KMart in the strip mall next to 93 where I smoked weed for the first time. I remember coughing up the smoke after my first hit and saying, I don’t feel any different this is dumb. I passed the joint off and didn’t touch weed for the rest of high school.
I exited off the high way and entered the largest rotary in town (or roundabout). Mommy, if we keep driving around and around in this, will we get in trouble? I asked my mom. I don’t know, she responded. It took 4 loops around in the large green Dodge Durango to realize what she was doing. I laughed so loudly out of the window as the wind hit my face, Mom! We’re gunna get in trouble! I exclaimed. She looked behind the driver’s seat at me and smiled. Isn’t it fun though?
Rosie’s was on my right hand side. A place loved by the entirety of Braintree High that I quote honestly didn’t enjoy all that much. I’d order a chicken parm sub that always had the wrong amount of cheese to sauce ratio with a side of fries that were too soggy to enjoy. But, I pretended to like it because everyone else did. What are you doing after school? Rosie’s then idk were usually how conversations went. You had to like Rosie’s.
I entered into the parking lot of Braintree High, grey and dreary-looking as ever but packed with so many memories I could write an entire blog series on it. The joy of being able to park in the “senior section” of the parking lot and sit at the glorified benches on the 3rd floor. The pain of my first break-up; thinking he was the “one” and all hope was lost. Spending hours after school in Ms. Forger’s room creating our banner for Spirit week after spending my week’s paycheck at iParty prepping for each day’s costume.
I experienced some of my highest highs and my lowest lows in the constraints of that school. Thinking that every decision, every rumor, every fuck up would stay with me forever like a scarlet letter tattooed deep in my skin. I graduated feeling lost and scared but had to pretend like I was ready for something bigger. I wasn’t. Or at least I thought that was the case.
I left the parking lot and started to head back to East Braintree.
I tried to resist going down Erickson St because I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. I didn’t know if I would cry, smile, or possibly feel nothing at all. I couldn’t tell what was worse.
The last house on the left, I’d tell newcomers. The house with the basketball court in the driveway, if they needed further instructions.
I flicked my right blinker on and turned the steering wheel. The wheels of my mom’s car rolled over every pothole and uneven patch-work job. 20 years later, and the town of Braintree still hasn’t fulfilled their promise of repaving the neighborhood, but I was sort of happy they didn’t. I was unaware that a poorly paved street could cause nostalgia until that moment.
I saw my house from the top of the street, already knowing the new home-owners had painted it blue years ago. The basketball court was gone and the side yard was fenced off. The large dog pen where Frazier, my basset hound, would hang out while we were at school was gone. I remember hearing his bark from the top of the street. He had an internal dog-clock and as soon as 2:30pm hit, he would expect my sister and I to drive down the street. I’m not sure our neighbor, Paul, thought it was cute, but I thought it was.
Paul. A quiet, keep to himself kind of guy. Worked for the post-office but took frequent trips down to Florida. I think he had a girlfriend living with him for a period of time, but I remember coming home from school and noticing her car was gone. It never returned.
The first time I ever thought I saw a gun was when I was about 13. It was dusk, the time of day were only silhouettes are visible from a distance. An unknown car had driven down our street and a man slammed the door which prompted me to look outside. In a glimpse, I saw him aim something at the window.
GUN!!!!! I screamed. My mother ran from the kitchen in a panic. THAT MAN HAS A GUN!!!!! We both ducked beneath the windows in a scare as my mom asked me questions. Are you sure?? Did he shoot the gun??
For a while, they were advertising for a new newspaper boy/girl in our neighborhood. They had exhausted all of the kids as they started to grow up and pick up jobs babysitting or at the local grocery store. The Patriot Ledger had to handle it themselves for a few months.
After hanging up the phone with the elder couple across the street, my mom opened the front door. “This is an interesting looking gun,” she said as she picked up the newspaper.
I love my birthday. I always have. As a self-proclaimed bday princess, I always considered March 16th to be a national holiday. My dad was renovating the house when I was in elementary school (possibly younger). The entire living room was a construction site and it fell on the week of my birthday. Dad was gone for day and I thought everyone forgot about the most important day of the year (lol). I walked into the house and all of my friends yelled SURPRISE! I remember smiling so big thinking that this was the COOLEST party ever, despite the sawdust and unpainted walls. I’m pretty sure the indoor kiddie pool was a surprise to my dad, too.
More memories began to flood my brain. A bit overwhelming, but necessary. Six years has gone by since the For Sale sign went up in front of that house and for six years I have attempted to push away that piece of my life, although at times I feel like it follows me like a bellowing storm ready to combust.
I hate you, I screamed at my parents as I slammed the front door. I stormed past the For Sale sign newly planted in our front lawn and got into my car. There was a spot I would always drive to and cry. For hours and hours. I’d cry until my face was purple and mouth was so dry there was no spit left to swallow. Why is everyone doing this to me I asked myself time and time again. I pretended like I didn’t care about the divorce, like I didn’t care my dad had found a new apartment or my grades at school were suffering. I didn’t care about my friend’s problems or my mom’s struggle with handling a severely depressed daughter. I didn’t care about anything.
I wanted to keep my wine colored carpet that never matched the new paint my dad would paint on the walls every couple of years. I wanted my giant tac board that I had covered with Red Sox paraphernalia and the shelves above my bed that were overcrowded with trophies and Beanie Babies. The bedroom with an unorganized dresser and a squeaky bed frame. The bedroom where my sister would crawl into bed with me and tell me everything would be OK when I felt like my world was falling apart.
At times, it was the only place where I felt completely at peace. Through the best times and the worst. Through victorious soccer matches and emotional youth group gatherings. Loud fights and door slams. I love you’s and I hate you’s. Dog barks and dad snores. Memories that I try to forget but even more that I will always remember.
I watched my parent’s pack the last of my childhood home into large cardboard boxes. I was prepping for college, unaware of where I would be staying for Christmas break and random weekends. It made me not want to come home because where was home? I defined home as my wine colored carpet and squeaky bed frame. My dining room table with festive place mats handmade by my grandmother.
It was only when I was in Cape Town when I realized that home doesn’t have mean a wine colored carpet. I sat on the top of Table Mountain overlooking Mowbray, Obs, and miles beyond. The various shades of blues in the water, the textured rooftops, the greenery so vibrant and pure. This feels like home, I whispered to myself. Cape Town provided a peace of mind that I hadn’t experience in so many years. My happiest moments lie in that city. In the hammock beneath the avocado tree. In the sands of Muzenberg. In my roommates. In the guy that helped me remember who I was and who I wanted to be.
I returned from Cape Town, my “home” had changed again and my mother moved further away from my wine colored carpet. Another transition, another “home” to grow accustomed to. Like Cape Town, I knew I was ready to create something different for myself. I knew I no longer needed the wine colored carpet to feel at home, it was just a matter of how and where.
My mom had a new home, as did my father. Where was mine going to be? I asked myself.
For a while I imagined California. Jetting off to the west coast to a more laid-back way of life. Permanent high temperatures and year-long tans. September of senior year hit and I began the job search out west.
It was March of 2015, a few months before graduation. I was saving for California, so my friend and I did a 4 day “spring break” trip to DC. I woke up early one morning for a long run and headed down to the monuments. The air was crisp and the Tidal Basin was still partially frozen over. I stopped at the MLK monument and felt a sense of peace and belonging, similar to how I felt sitting on the top of Table Mountain a year prior.
I want this to be my next home, I whispered to myself.
I guess you know the rest from there. If you don’t, read this.
Almost 2 years later and DC is my new home. The apartment across from Meridian Hill Park, I tell newcomers. The vintage looking one with the random balloons out front, if they need further instructions.
There’s no wine colored carpet or squeaky bed frame. In fact, I don’t even have a bed frame (oops). Instead, there’s Cordell at the front desk who listens to all of my guy problems at 3am after a long shift at work. There’s a kitchen so tiny you can hardly fit an average size cutting board on the counter. There’s an unpainted IKEA table and an Urban Outfitters boho rug on the floor. There’s hanging plants and a French Press that hasn’t been touched. There’s crumbs, dishes in the kitchen sink, and an Apple TV that hasn’t been touched.
It’s dysfunctional and messy at times, but it’s mine.
I didn’t mean this post to turn into 2000 word piece (WOWZA), sry. But I guess my point of it all is that memories have a funny way of following us, even if we don’t want them to. Braintree is what raised me, Cape Town is what changed me, and DC is creating me into someone new. Someone I’m not totally sure how to define yet, but living on your own and understanding the value of building a new life completely on your own is empowering.
“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”
Now enjoy these gems of throwbacks (sorry guys). 30 Erickson was enjoyed by so many wonderful peeps ❤ Thanks for making it so special.