We lived on a lovely street in McLean,Virginia.
We moved there from Nice, France when my father was re-assigned to the Pentagon. Our family made our way across the country on a large ocean liner, and my sister and I wore French bathing suits that consisted of bottoms only. (Yeah. Thanks, mom.)
We moved to Lemon Road in the sixties. We spent what we all agree were the best years of our lives there laughing and bonding with neighbors who were more like family. We celebrated every holiday in the large expanse of a backyard with most of the neighbors; barbecuing, playing tag, volleyball, catching fireflies and torturing each other while our parents sipped martinis and laughed loudly until well into each night. They really, really were the best days.
I went to Virginia several weeks ago and my awesome cousin invited me to stay with his family for a night.
"I know you're busy, but please stay with us at least one night. We'll come home from our trip early, have you for dinner, you can stay the night and then zip home the next morning."
I was so touched by his offer and so excited to spend time with them that I immediately said YES!
Not long after I arrived at his gorgeous (gulp) home and after laughing and chatting with his family he looked at me. "Well, Vodkamom, are you ready?"
"To go to Lemon Road, " he said with a smile. Yes. Oh yes, I was ready.
I stood, grabbed my purse, shoved it full of courage and followed him out to his car. I buckled up, trying to wrap my emotions into a neat little ball that wouldn't explode upon impact.
It took five minutes to get there. (Which was not nearly enough time to finish the to-go cup he had so thoughtfully prepared for me.)
Five minutes to reach the one place on earth that held my most precious memories.
He parked the car across the street and we slowly walked up the driveway. "Are you going to knock on the door?" He asked in a surprised voice.
"Yes I am." I replied. "I have to."
The young woman who answered the door smiled at me as I tried to explain who I was.
"I know you!" She said. "We emailed each other after a friend of mine from your hometown sent me a column where you mentioned our house! Remember? I am so glad you are here! Do you want to come in? We're packing for our move to London, but we'll be renting our house for two years until we return. This is going to be our house for a long, long time."
My cousin (Clyde) and I followed her through the house as she chatted about their plans. I gazed around in wonder, wrapped in a time-warp I was unable to evade.
I saw my mother baking cookies and my father smoking his pipe in the living room while reading the paper. I could hear the sounds of a long-ago childhood and it melted my heart.
We walked out the back door to the yard that led to the creek. I stood quietly and Clyde turned to me.
"I'm going to take a short walk to the creek, if that's okay," I said to them softly. "I'll be back in a minute."
"Are you going to cry, vodka?"
"Yep. I'm pretty sure I am."
I walked slowly down the hill towards the creek, releasing the tears that had been hiding behind my eyelids since I entered the house. I didn't try to put a name on the tears that flowed, but allowed them to run their course. They flowed as I stared at the creek, glanced either way through the neighborhood as my eyes reached out to steal back my memories, and back up at the back of the house that held me for those lovely years.
(My father built the deck, seat around the tree and the railing along the hill.)