The Old Florida House

(Not that anyone was really paying attention to it, but transcribing what amounted to three pages a day, during my leisure time, was more annoying than I’d anticipated.  I intend to digitize the rest of “I Walk In,” but I’m not sure when I’ll get back around to it.)

Coming home to Florida every year is an experience.  Everything’s the same, but different.  The long-rusted swing-set in the back yard is gone, but the long-rusted basketball net in the driveway is still there.  Since the last time I was here, about half a mile down the street a Chabad House opened and a Winn-Dixie and a Blockbuster closed.

But I’m used to things like that by now.  Little one or two-month snapshots of my neighborhood, followed by almost a year of looking away.  I’ve told people before about how I’ll sometimes subconsciously reach for the dishwasher when looking for a fork because that’s where the silverware drawer used to be before the kitchen was remodeled a good ten years ago.  Or, conversely, how I sometimes reach for the silverware drawer when I want to throw away garbage because, you guessed it, the garbage can used to be there.  When I first got home from the airport, I instinctively swerved to the left as I walked up the front walkway because, up until a year ago, there was a giant cactus growing right next to the front door that would routinely attack passers by who were not deferential to it.

But then come the sillier instincts I’ve retained.  Keep in mind that I lived in this house from age 5 to age 19.

There’s a little silvery plastic bulb embedded into the wall just at the entrance to the kitchen.  I don’t know what it’s for, but it’s there, and has always been there.  Somewhere along the line I decided that I couldn’t step on the tile just in front of it, or any of the tiles that go out diagonally from that tile. I came up with a similar rule for an electrical outlet in the kitchen.  And then there’s that tile in the living room that has a scratch on it: no stepping on that one or any perpendicular tiles.  I still subconsciously follow those rules when I walk into the kitchen.  There are also a few stairs that, when I think about it, bother me to step on.

While it’s cool to notice these things year after year, almost as if they’re new experiences every time, the novelty does diminish over time.  But I do want to get them out again, because this could very well be the last time I stay in this house.  With my sister graduating high school, there aren’t any more kids in the house and the family’s sort of undergoing a transition from “working parents with kids” to “retirees on pension.”

My sister is doing a year program in Israel, and my mom is basically moving to Israel this year as well.  My father will be spending most of his time in a smaller apartment closer to his office.  So what happens to the house?  We’re not quite sure at this point.

But for now, I’m here.  And the house is, sort of, kind of, mostly, how it was when I grew up.  And in a week I’ll be gone.  So just in case this is my last opportunity to appreciate the mold-patched concrete that makes up our back patio, the bumps and cracks in the driveway from the constantly growing root systems underneath the house, the sliding glass door that, blasphemy of blasphemies, actually slides and locks properly?  Wait a second, when did that happen?

More on this later, I need to investigate.

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