They say you can’t go back in time, but I did – straight into the kitchen of my childhood home.
A few weeks ago, Hoffman’s youngest and I were in Santa Rosa all day. On the way back to Napa, I was feeling nostalgic, so I took it for a guided tour through the Old Quarter.
I told her that was where she grew up. This was a home from second grade to twelfth grade, plus one or two summer vacations in college. That was my room, I pointed to one of the windows. We parked our VW 1976 truck there. I’ve ridden my bike up and down these hills a thousand times.
Ah, she said politely.
I understood that it didn’t mean much to her. She is a girl from Napa. Santa Rosa is just a place to visit for a random errand, a middle school volleyball game, or a 4-H rabbit show.
As I drove down our old street, I babbled about every house.
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This is where one of the other two Jennifers in the building lived, as I said. Next door is the house where I broke the skate on my wrist. This is where my brother blew his eyelashes messing with firecrackers on the Fourth of July. We were caught playing matches when they were building this house. This couple grew marijuana in their attic. This is the pond where David S. clicked me. Daughters.
Over the years, I’ve driven our old house a few times but never seen anyone outside. But this time, there was a man in the corridor.
I stopped like a race car driver in a pit stop.
I jumped out of the car, terrifying my daughter.
I said: I have to meet him.
Hello, I said extending my hand. I’m Jennifer Hoffman and my family used to live here.
Oh said. We bought the house from your parents, said Mr. Z, the owner of the house. We have raised a family and have lived here for over 30 years.
Wow, I said. Same owner this whole time. I couldn’t believe it.
Are any of us left at home? I wonder.
Is the graffiti still in the garage? I asked him.
He said I think so. do you want to see it?
I went back to my car to take my phone.
I told my daughter I’ll be right back. I’ll see if our graffiti is still in the garage.
huh? She said with a confused look.
Growing up, our garage was the home of the manual sharpener. For those of us who procrastinate with our homework, the trip to the sharpener was a great excuse to take a break, and walk as slowly as possible up and down the stairs. On the wall next to the sharpener, my brother and I felt free to write small letters.
Surrender to motherhood: My husband said his chest hurt. I gave him bad advice.
Chris wrote in 1982: “I hate math.
Upchuck ‘N Die! he added.
The “Adventure” game achievements are indexed: gold chain, rare spices, Ming vases, pirate chest …
I left my signature and made a small mark each time I sharpened my pencil.
Mr. Z showed me the back of the door. There was my father’s handwriting that accurately recorded oil change dates and mileage; October 1982, August 1983, etc.
I got a lump in my throat seeing my dad’s notes. He has been gone for more than four years now but there have been his writings that are full of life.
Mr. Z said: We are about to redesign the kitchen. do you want to see it?
I climbed the stairs, walked into a kitchen I had not been to in nearly 40 years.
Like frozen time, it was exactly how I remember it. Same cabinets, same knobs, same stove/oven, same gold tile top, same window evenness, same patchwork printed wallpaper!
Wow, I said. It was so realistic to imagine my mom, dad, and brother coming in, sitting down, and starting a family dinner like we’ve done thousands of times.
I said: I just can’t believe it’s the same thing.
Setting the table, having dinner, preparing the dishes, throwing a dagger, looking at my brother, giving a (strict) lecture by my dad, asking my mom for help with homework, explaining my latest report card, making my favorite cookies, eating all the almond covered yogurt In the pantry, putting the toaster on my big toe, over and over again.
Twenty minutes ago Mr. Z was minding his own business. Now a strange lady was screaming in his kitchen. I’m sure this wasn’t on his to-do list for today.
I wanted to see my old room, but was afraid to lose it completely.
Thank you, I said, wiping away the tears, and going back to the car where and to my daughter.
I told him: You don’t know how much this means to me.
I realized that his family had lived in that house for much longer than we had. He and his wife raised a bunch of children there as well.
Two families loved that house.
We were the first. We are not the last.
The surrender to motherhood is now shown every Sunday. Share your thoughts with Jennifer at [email protected].
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