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404 Sun Valley Drive

Sitting in the tiny living room, a breeze through the open windows, very little furniture, clean

hardwood floors uncovered from the scattered throw rugs. Everything is exposed. Fresh energy rushing through from the outside air. A clean simple, silent feel to the house. Simple, yet complex. This is the house of my childhood, from age 10-20 years. Then for the next 40 years it was where I returned to visit the two constants—mum and dad. Dad’s been gone a good many years, and that left this little world at 404 Sun Valley Dr in Plum Boro, Pittsburgh PA, to my mother.

The silence, breeze, uncluttered feeling is fresh, but also unnatural. For fifty years she had fully occupied this place—knickknacks and notes and memories surrounded her. The walls plastered with photos of her grandchildren, loving cards from friends and relatives; she kept all those that loved her around this way. Now she often doesn’t know them, or knows the faces but has lost the details. She lives on, but different. In her hospital-like bed at Golden Living, she lies, or she sits in the wheelchair lined up with the others, heads bent forward in sleep or daydream. Arriving last night from Virginia, I walk right past her, don’t recognize her with the recent changes since the seizure and long month in the hospital. She smiles, she talks. Her mind can be clear as a bell. Then the next minute it is like a turning wheel that slows down and lands on one particular memory. Then the wheel turns again. That one is gone too.

And here I sit in her house, that was my house too, and memories flash.

Age 10—we move out to the “country”. We were one of the first of this now sprawling suburban development. Deer run through our backyard. I am so excited to have my own room (it’s the size of a large bathroom).

Age 11--My sister and I sit at the “bar” for dinner. I try to make a deal with her to take my meat and I’ll take her beets. We are busy with undercover negotiations.

Age 12—It is Easter, and I am at the awkward stage--chubby….no waist ….cat-eye glasses….what happened to my pretty blonde hair? I’m in a yellow dress, white ankle socks, patent leather shoes posing self-consciously in front of the house with my Easter basket, a yearly ritual. As is the Easter Basket Hunt where mum up a treasure hunt with clues in plastic eggs. My basket was in the trunk of our car, or maybe that year it was in the oven.

Age 13—Making red and blue