We’ve lived in this house going on six years this month. And being the sort of person who always imagined the houses I’d someday inhabit long before I ever laid eyes on them, I fell for it and this neighborhood years and years and years ago, probably the first time I set foot here.
Being the ambivalent sort that I am, though, not even love can erase an awareness of its faults. Its basement, where the scaffolding and rigging hidden elsewhere are revealed, is a horror show. I suspect people leave our house after dinner parties idly wondering how I’m able to produce anything halfway edible in our counterless kitchen.
And the neighborhood the house sits in? It’s scrappy and colorful enough, on a good day. On bad ones? On bad ones, the grass is always greener on the other side — the other side in this case being Interstate 20. On the other side people also fret about housing prices and school options and and carry the same weight — of living in a sprawling spendthrift southern city* that wasn’t once called The Big Hustle for nothing. Over there, though, they can head down the street to the neighborhood restaurant to order an ultra-up St. Germain champagne cocktail with which to toast their worries, and, oh, yeah, while they’re at it they can pick up a gallon of organic milk.
I’ve lived in this house 6 years. Over 2000 days. How many times have I scrubbed the toilets in it (some would say not enough; others that I need a maid)? How many times have I rushed down the dark length of the hallway in the middle of the night, toward the bedroom of the feverish child who just called out? How many times, as I hustle from doing one thing to doing something else, have I glanced quickly out the front window?
One daughter is holding up a princess costume that must be safety-pinned together before this afternoon’s theatre class, because someone (uh, me) forgot to sew it. The other wants to know: will it be cold out today, will it? Will it? Mommy, mommy, what are you thinking about? Why aren’t you listening?
I am thinking about everything; and nothing. About the fact that it is possible to purchase a brand-new copy of my first collection of short stories online for seventy-seven cents. About the emails that multiplied in my inbox overnight, like bacteria samples in a petri dish. About parents (mine, myself) and children (me, mine). About the need to buy groceries. There are backpacks to be found, notes to sign, dishes to wash. There is the step back to be taken, while brushing my youngest daughter’s hair, to admire her freckles.
And there is also, in the midst of all that, that quick glance to be thrown out the window, where my eyes catch on the green street sign I’ve looked at thousands of times before.
We live on Eden Avenue. I know, I know, I shouldn’t reveal this. All the same, it took six years for the true import of this name to hit me blindside, and leave me amazed.
We live on — in — Eden.
Why bother with words, when the world outside the window does so much of our heavy lifting?
*news just came out that the radio transmitters on 25 percent of the city water meters recently updated so as to properly usher in all the technological advances of the day, were installed upside down, which, as you can imagine, makes them useless.