Thursday, February 28, 2013

That's Life - Asi Es La Vida

You see this Spanish-style house with the light blue shutters? I used to own it. The house sits between two vineyards in a small French village. It was sold after my divorce when I'd moved back to the US. I loved that house. We have many happy memories of that time in our lives.

There's a house in Puerto Rico with a tiled roof, very similar to this house. My grandparents used to own it. Neither house belong to me or my family any longer. Both houses were sold because life is life and it goes on whether we approve or like it one bit.

My maternal grandparents owned the house in Puerto Rico where I lived when I was a week old. That house was a constant in my life until my mother passed away in 1992 and my grandmother decided it was too much house for her after my grandfather passed away. I think she was running away from memories and the loss of two daughters, as well. I didn't blame her. You can't walk through the house without memories rushing in.

Family Christmas parties and parrandas, summer vacations from May to late August when my mom, sister and I would visit, and the year we lived with my grandparents, waiting for my father to return from Vietnam. The toilet where the iguana came out of and the chaos that ensued, graduation from high school when we lived in Puerto Rico for two years and returning to the island with my daughter when I was pregnant with my son. Another summer when my then-husband, my kids and I vacationed in PR when we lived overseas. So many memories. This house was my home - my refuge, my solace and my love.

So you see, this house isn't just a house to me. It is so much more than that. I'd wanted to buy my grandparent's house. While my then-husband and I considered the purchase, a family member bought it. I was bummed, but very glad that the house where I spent many happy times members would remain in the family. Her in-laws immediately moved in and lived there until she sold the house. I didn't know a thing about the sale until I visited Puerto Rico last December with my friend. I was dumb-struck and heartbroken when I'd found out it had been sold.

I parked the rental car across the street and immediately, I found it hard to speak. The white house was now painted a charcoal gray, not appropriate for a tropical climate. As soon as my friend D and I exited the car, I felt greeted by my departed grandparents, my mother, aunts and uncles and a cousin who died when he was 18. Memories of family photos taken in the front garden when I was little rushed in. I showed D the place where I cut the salamander's tail off to see if the myth was true about the tail remaining 'alive' afterward. The spot along the wrought-iron fence where a boy named Richard said he loved me just before my high school graduation and the enclosed porch, malquesina, where my daughter proudly showed her grandmother and great-grandmother her dancing skills while my son chased lizards in the back patio, under the huge mango tree.

I had tears in my eyes as the new owner's daughter gave me a tour of my grandparent's house. The floor tiles were the same, the remodeled bathroom was still yellow, and the kitchen where my grandmother lovingly prepared food hadn't changed. It will always be my family's house to me. My bedroom was non-recognizable, however. I got ready for my Junior and Senior Proms in that room, I cried there when my boyfriend died in a motorcycle accident, and when the room used to be my grandparent's room. There are stories of me as a toddler, ripping my grandfather's newspaper in shreds before he came home from the bank at noontime and of me as a teenager having a hissy fit that my grandmother was holding me hostage when my parents flew back to the US on business. She had a ring of keys to prove that she was in charge, much like a prison marm :)

I cried for my mother, my grandparents and the past as the tour came to an end. I had mixed emotions, I didn't know what to do with. I wanted to tell the new owner that she shouldn't have bought the house and at the same time, I was thankful that she'd been home and offered us a tour. I felt closer to my mother and my grandparents; there were around me, but I also felt like an interloper. I missed my mother so much at that moment and shook my head to compose myself as we headed to the cemented patio where a lush tropical garden had been.

"The mango tree is gone," I said to the new owner. She looked at me for a moment and said, "I didn't know you ever lived in this house."

Oh yes, I did. And, then some.

Some days, we're more nostalgic than others. Maybe it's all the cold meds I'm taking?

Peace and love,


  1. Homes have a spirit and safeguard many memories. Working in real estate, I'm well aware of the emotions and feelings that accompany the purchasing or selling of a home. When viewing potential homes with clients I often wish the walls could talk, as I wonder about the lives of past residents. Hugs - Jasmine

  2. Beautiful words, Jasmine and so true. Homes do indeed have spirit(s). I feel the same way which is why I had a talk with the spirits in my 106-year old house before I moved in :)I was very interested in learning who had lived in the house before me. My neighbor Mr. Don (now passed on) was most helpful as he was a past president of our town's Historical Society. He said the house had a happy history which made me happy! Hugs to you, Ellie