In the night, after the cold, the snow came. We awoke to a world wholly transformed from the darkness the evening prior. Sun glistened off every surface outside, a world of white – the brightest white – galvanized by the lightest blue sky, and all that glorious light poured into the condo. Any hesitation about the darkness of my color selections went out the tightly closed windows.
That day, we began the bedroom – in a deep blue. That included the ceiling too, which I thought I would soften with a little trompe l’oeil cloud action. If it sounds tacky and cheesy, it totally was. There’s no accounting for the taste of a twenty-year-old, particularly if said guy was raised on a diet of Norma Desmond, Madonna, and ‘Priscilla: Queen of the Desert’. That said, it didn’t look entirely atrocious. (Okay, the white fringe of the canopy bed that was to come may have been atrocious.)
As curls of smoke rose from one of my Uncle’s ever-present menthols, he paused and looked around. Every now and then he did that. Surveying what had been done, and what there was yet to do. I didn’t quite have that grasp of the big picture yet, I either fell so completely and close-mindedly into the task at hand or grew antsy at seeing only the end result. My Uncle could gauge both, but he had experience and I had none. He went into the other room. We needed a hammer. And nails. And something else, the memory of which now – at long last – eludes me, quite sadly. This is why I write things down. A trip to the hardware store was needed. I volunteered to make the trip, being the only one who knew where it was, but I hated to miss one moment of anything – so enraptured was I in having time with my favorite Uncle. I hurried out into the bright, beautiful world and stopped. It was a brilliant day. A gorgeous day. The cold had lifted a bit with the arrival of the snow. The sun was shining, unobstructed by cloud cover. This was how we survived the winter, I thought. With this brightness, with this light. You never got this in the summer. The temperature was the pay-off, but at that moment, surrounded by sun and ice crystals and light ricocheting off every spot around you, the pay-off was a bargain. My trip to the hardware store was my only time alone for those few days. There was beauty in solitude, and there was beauty in companionship. I’ve always felt slightly in the middle. When I got back to the condo, the guys had started on the bathroom. (That would be the peach bathroom – the only real misstep of the whole endeavor – and the room that would be painted over the most – its brick wall defying a complementary color to the very end.)
I set the bags down in the cluttered living room, and removed my coat. We were nearing the close of our time together, the close of these few precious days, and the beginning of my time alone here. There was suddenly a heaviness in my heart, far weightier than the hammer in my hand. I wasn’t quite ready for it to be over. I would never be ready for it to be over.
On the last morning there was still some work to be done, but we finished on time. The clean-up was quicker than anticipated. Begrudgingly, with dragging feet and stall tactics in full-effect, I helped them pack their things. My Mom arrived as scheduled, and soon they were on their way. I didn’t return to Amsterdam with them, I stayed in Boston. A new life had begun. A new home had been created. It had taken family, and that’s why it would sustain me. There was love here, even if it was only the love that I had given ~ it still counted.
All of the important people who have made me into the man that I am (for better or worse) have inhabited this condo at one point or another. They’ve visited and spent time within these walls. They have slept and eaten here, retired and woken, laughed and possibly cried. I’ve done all that and plenty more, and it’s still not enough.
Tonight, I sit at the laptop typing this out, and feeling as grateful to be here as I did almost twenty years ago. Two decades. Living, laughing, and loving… Here’s to the next twenty.Back to Blog