I have come to my parents place for the holidays! Now when I say my parents place, that’s a loaded term; cause it’s not only my parent’s home, but in the grand tradition of dynasties, my uncles and aunts and even my cousins all live together in this rambling mansion, that was built more than a 100 years ago. Though time again, the various members of this extended family have flown from this house, including my father who left this house and city more than 40 years ago in search of better prospects, they all come back here! Whether it’s after their retirement, like my father or like my cousin who spent 15 years in Europe, only to come back here, so that he could raise his children in the way he was, in the very heart of the family!
I love this old house, its shaded nooks and the sunny parlors and wide staircases which for generations had served as gateway for a child with a secret game or a book to read in peace – something I did as a child and still do as an adult. The pistachio colored outer walls and cool deep green insides and the high pillared ionic columns or the inland courtyard, where I spent my childhood alternately playing with my favorite cousin or being teased by not so favorite ones!!!! I love getting up in the morning to the sound of the main street – this mansion overlooks one of the busiest thoroughfares of the city; my great grandfather who built this house had no conception of far from the madding crowd! Or to traipse down to the local bakery just two blocks down the line to smell of fresh bread and what I consider the world’s best plum cake! I love wafting through the books that were the “in reads” and when Fitzgerald was not a distant figure but a literary l’enfant terrible and a contemporary of the people who had bought these editions, including my grandfather! I love the old spacious kitchen, which is larger than my room in my apartment and the stone stoves, which stand next to the new electronic stove and the traditional food cooked and supervised by my aunts! I love the history and the sense of timelessness that go hand in hand with each other!
Yet despite all my sentimentality, I cannot imagine living here except for a brief spell of time. Unlike my cousin, I feel no compulsion to come back here eventually; nor like my father do I plan my retirement around this house, nor like my uncle claim that the very meaning of life and its travesty is embodied in this house! I am not sure what I lack or what makes me so different from others? Was it because I was not born here or because I grew up away from large groups of people; I am not sure what keeps me and makes me shrink away from sending a lifetime here? Or is it just a highly developed sense of space that cowers me from large groups of people – but considering I am such a social animal, I somehow cannot seem to believe that theory either. But while l love this house and the identity of belonging this house and family, it’s important that I step away and make a separate identity of my own and create my own space that is not crowded by my past and holds the promise of a future that is not shaped by precedents. At the same time, I do look forwards to returning to this warm shelter at the end of the exhausting year, to renew the ties that help me forge ahead for the next year. It is the balance between staying here and moving away that keeps me sane and independent and at the same time rooted to all that is beloved and part of my DNA. So here’s wishing a rip roaring success to the this legend of a house, – may it continue to provide nostalgia, safety and history for generations to come!