Goodbyes, Last

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As a kid, I looked out the front windows of our house onto a city playground and its monkey bars, basketball courts and sandbox. Torture, when I wasn’t allowed to go outside and play, because I hadn’t finished my homework or chores, encouragement to finish when I was close. In either case, I could pretty well know at a lightning-quick glance when my friends were available for play. The front room, which we called the living room, although we never did much of anything in it, was always ready for guests (i.e., pretty much off-limits to us).

Our kitchen was the actual real-life heart and brains of the place; almost every memory I have of that house centers on cooking, or food, or eating. Every conversation of any substance whatsoever over the course of my entire young life happened there. We ate at the kitchen table, not in the dining room, where dinners with company would happen. I had my first drink of booze – not my first drink of wine, which happened pretty much routinely at dinner but real booze – mixing an insane concoction from off-remnants in my dad’s liquor cabinet in the kitchen. (A particular mistake never repeated.)

I shared a bedroom with my older brother until he went to college but, even then, the room stayed the same, double beds, matching desks and bookcases, cowboy motif. By the time I hit my teen years, I scarcely noticed the decor; I was in my room pretty much solely to sleep. At night, I kept my windows open, weather allowing, and heard the sound of the old Golden Gate foghorns, now replaced by electronic tones, as I fell asleep.

My grandmother, whom I called Kato YiaYia (Greek-speakers among you may understand), lived in an apartment downstairs. She would highjack me many afternoons when I’d come home from school or practice and feed me a full dinner of roast chicken and potatoes, pilaf or macaroni, bread and salad (and wine) before I’d go upstairs to choke down my second dinner. She kept the garden, which was out her apartment’s back door, well; she knew all the folk wisdom of planting and pruning and phases of the moon and months of the year. After she passed, the garden was turned into a faux-Japanese meditative garden; no more fresh herbs and fruit trees.

Those are my memories of this place on 27th Avenue in San Francisco’s Richmond District.

We’ve just sold the house to a new young family that will make its own history and create its own memories there.

Over the course of my 50-plus years, I must have walked in and out of that house a million times. And soon, any day now, some random exit will be my last.

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