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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Real Estate

My parents are obsessed with real estate. If they're driving somewhere on a Sunday afternoon and notice an "open house" sign at the side of the road, they take a detour to see it. Sometimes the signs are messed up and they get lost. But they don't give up. They drive five miles an hour, eyes peeled, until they find what they're looking for. They collect information sheets and argue about the benefits of buying a new house versus a fixer-upper.

This obsession baffles me. My parents talk constantly about selling their house and moving into another. We immigrated from Romania ten years ago and during our first seven years in America we moved every year or six months. It got to the point where we didn't even unpack half of our boxes; there was no point. I felt like a nomad. I got a sick feeling in my stomach when it was time to empty the closets and the kitchen cabinets, hire the cheapest U-Haul truck and drag the fridge and the couch yet again into the truck's echoing metallic belly.

We moved in Romania a lot too, from small apartments to large ones then to a beautiful house with a flower and vegetable garden and huge parqueted rooms with high ceilings. There was a floor to ceiling wood-burning stove covered in maroon glazed tiles in a corner of my sister's and my bedroom. I loved that house. It had a bathroom with a deep, old-fashioned tub, pink-and-mauve tiles, and two doors. You had to remember to lock both doors when you were in there or a guest could just bust in on you and catch you with your panties around your ankles.

But new beginnings are very tempting -- a clean white sheet to write another version of your life on. I suppose that's why my parents talk so much about buying a new house. Then selling that one and moving into another. It's a way to distract yourself from what's going on at the center of your life, things that are too painful to look at closely. You can pretend that you're leaving these painful things behind in the old house, with the dirty carpets and the drippy faucets and the stains on the walls. You can pretend that the fresh coat of paint in the new house is a tabula rasa, that by the exchange of money and the signing of papers you've been turned into an innocent who can start life anew.

Being an itinerant seems to be a fundamental part of the American experience. It's the spirit of the Puritan pilgrim whose house cannot be found here on this earth. There's great freedom in this rootlessness, and it's exhilarating. But it has often weighed on me. I feel lost without a sense of place. I don't live with my family any more and have moved only once in the past four years -- a record of sorts -- but I still feel like a woman without a country. I don't feel connected to the place where I live, to its history. There's no history here, it seems, no sense of the past.

So perhaps there's something else my parents are looking for; perhaps they're moving towards something rather than just away from their past. They want to find a place where they feel at home. I don't know that they can find it, though, not on Rolling Brook Lane or Paseo de las Palomas or Whispering Wind Circle up on a hill in northern Orange County. The only real estate an immigrant can lay claim to with any kind of honesty and any kind of hope is his own body and mind. That's the only place left, I think, where you can feel at home.

2 Comments:

Blogger madness rivera said...

As always, lovely C. I hope you're not mad at me for sharing you. A woman emailed me that couldn't make a comment directly on your blog. I pass it along now:

"Love your friend's blog... her writing is beautiful and she has such a way with words! Maybe you could pass that along to her (I can't comment on her blog because I'm not on Blogger). Thanks for sharing the link!"

We write to save our own lives. We write to save the lives of others too. Be generous with your talent. We need it.

December 15, 2005  
Blogger Green Whale said...

It freaked me out to see that you'd shared me, as you say, but I've calmed down since. Thank you for your generosity and kind words. I need to be more open with my writing but it's very, very hard for me. You're pushing me in that direction, and though I don't like it, I like it.

December 15, 2005  

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