In the notes section of my phone, there is a list of writing prompts. The third prompt is “A room that is important to you.”
My parents have a hot tub. The hot tub is just the latest item in a long list of reminders that I don’t live at home anymore.
How could they go from normal parents one day, to hot-tub-owning parents the next?
“But where is it?” I ask my mom over the phone.
“On the deck,” she says.
“Oh yeah. We added a deck, too,” she says. Her tone is so casual, like she doesn’t realize she’s telling me about major home renovations. “You guys should come visit. You can sit in the hot tub.”
While it sounds amazing, especially now that California is having some actual winter weather, I can’t quite get used to that whole hot tub thing. I mean, I still feel homesick for the way our house was when I was a child – eight and ten and fourteen years old. It hasn’t been like that for almost half my lifetime.
I knew everything was different when I went to college. Not my freshman year, so much, when I still came home all the time and most of my stuff was still up on my bedroom walls. But once I started living in apartments, and my room at home started becoming storage, it was a slippery slope to “I don’t live here at all anymore.”
Probably moving to New York right after college had something to do with that. I didn’t go home that summer, except for a week or so before we got on a plane from SFO to JFK, in mid-August. And then I was gone for three years and the transition became even more complete.
I’ve been back in California for four and a half years. I have never in that time moved back home, and where would I have lived if I had? On the futon couch in the living room, probably. Despite multiple passings-off of my childhood stuff from my parents to me, there is still, inexplicably, more of my stuff in my bedroom, although it becomes more and more hidden among things that aren’t mine. My stuffed animals stick it out, though, sitting on a shelf above the bay window, covered in dust and, I’m positive, spiders. Every time someone suggests I go through them, I shiver and say I will as soon as they’ve all been run through the dryer or something.
The same thing happened to Drew. His room became an office, although his parents had to wait until we came back from New York and essentially stole all his bedroom furniture. But he and I are both in the same position of peeking into our childhood bedrooms and remembering them in a totally different way than they are now.
A few years ago, (after the my-bedroom transition but before the deck and hot tub,) my parents added a bathroom and walk-in closet onto their bedroom. Growing up it was always a point of contention/argument/self-righteousness (depending on one’s mood at the time) that our house only had one bathroom. But after the kids were out and it didn’t matter anymore, they fixed that. It’s good for resale, I guess, but I don’t even want to start thinking about that house being sold to strangers. It’s cool to see the addition, and cool that it happened, and surreal that there’s a whole add-on to the back of the house that wasn’t there when I was growing up.
I guess in a twisted way, that’s the room that is important to me. Because the addition, followed soon after by the deck and the hot tub, is something that I had no part in, I didn’t help at all with the planning, in fact I didn’t even have an idea something was up until it was already going down. And that just means that I definitely, unquestionably, 100% don’t live there anymore. The addition changed my childhood home in a way that putting in hardwood floors, moving the furniture around, and storing all the craft stuff on shelves in my old room does not.
Most of the time this doesn’t bother me too much. If my childhood home isn’t the same, well…neither am I, certainly. And it’s not like I want to stay in one place and never grow or change or move away.
But I’ve gotten so good at writing things down and journaling and documenting and taking photos – I wish I had been better at that at ages eight, ten, fourteen, eighteen. I wish I could remember more about all those summers spent at camp, or my 8th grade graduation dance, or some random trip my friends and I took to Cupertino my freshman year of college. (What the heck were we doing in Cupertino??) My memories of childhood are fuzzy. When I try to remember, I just end up picturing myself now, but like, wearing t-shirts with cat pictures and drawing with chalk pastels and making mix tapes.
On second thought, maybe the 90s are just not an inspiring time to keep constantly at the forefront of your mind. Maybe it’s good enough to know we made it through them unscathed.