An Old Building
I walked past it the other day. It had been twenty years since we lived there. At that time it was still ‘we’. Some time back, it had become ‘I’. But anyone who has ever lived with others, be it family, friends, spouses, roommates or even a camp situation, can never forget. Even if the memory sits in the back of the mind for years, the day comes (or perhaps night) when those interactions, both good and bad, resurface.
So it was with this apartment building. At first, I found it on an odd chance, while scrambling through classified ‘for rent’ signs in the local newspaper. The place we had lived in, myself and my two children, had become too dangerous, too hard to get to work from, and the new managers were very difficult. One evening after work, I made that giant effort to take the bus over to this place that advertised apartments for rent.
The woman who greeted me looked like a nice, little country woman and the apartment she showed me on the second floor was cozy and roomy enough for me and the kids. The rent seemed quite reasonable, too. So in the warm light of old fashioned light fixtures, I agreed to rent this place, one month at a time.
Soon we were moved in and I don’t remember just how we dealt with the furniture or other logistics of changing from one place to another. There was a car, a large old gas burner, and I am sure this helped to get us across the bay to our new place. We had lived on the beach years earlier. Actually the apartment from that time was only a block away from this new place.
This building became an anchor for us. My daughter got married and moved to the first floor apartment. My son and I moved to the apartment across from the original one, which was a bit smaller, but still had that pre-war generosity in build-out, which is so comfortable. There was a huge walk in closet, almost as big as some rooms which are passed off as bedrooms today. Most appreciated were the high ceilings, so rare in today’s affordable apartments.
Time passed and the building was sold and renovated. My daughter went off with her new family, my son got a place of his own and I ended up in various temporary places until years later, ended back on the beach again. It took me a while to readjust and to begin walking around the old neighborhoods. I had passed this building several times but was too hyper to stop and take a closer look.
When I took the snapshot the other day, I noticed the parking lot was gone, the big mango tree but a memory, and there was none of that old stucco charm remaining. It was just a big, white box of a place - no hint or trace of the lives, hopes, dramas and tragedies its walls had seen.
The little babies my daughter bore grew up way too quickly. The generations flow along and instead of being the ‘breadwinner’ and center of a family, I am now on the outer periphery of it all. But give me a spare minute, and I am right back in the middle of the cauldron of those days – those exciting, action-filled, heart-rending days of yore. No, you can’t go back to the past, but you can hold it in the palm of your hand and gently caress it and say, “I have lived and I don’t regret a moment of it.”