There is a house in the middle of Albany, New York.
It is in one of the not-so-great neighborhoods. The ghetto. The 'hood. Whatever you want to call it--the street looks like the very definition of a poor, urban neighborhood.
All the houses on the block look the same--just different color schemes. They all have a stoop with roughly six or so steps, wrought iron railings and a matching awning overhead. I would just about bet that I could go into any one of these homes and be able to find my way around to each room...each house being a cookie cutter copy of the next.
This house is shades of brown. Beige vinyl siding with dark brown trim. The awning is beige and dark brown stripes. Double doors with huge full panes of thick glass lead to a small foyer where the mailboxes are and two more doors--both with huge panes of glass that are taller than I am--lead to the upstairs and downstairs apartments.
There is a postage stamp of a yard in the back that used to have grape vines until the neighbor accidentally chopped them all down--his purely innocent attempt at 'weeding'. Tulips would be planted every year in precise patterns, only to have the squirrels dig them up and replant them. It was a surprise every spring to see which colors were going to sprout in what parts of the yard.
My grandma bought this house right around the time that my biological mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She wanted my father and I to always have a place to return to--no matter what life brought our way.
Sometimes we lived there...often we didn't. My father and my step (we don't used that word and it's only for clarification purposes) mom made their own way in the world and we lived in several different places over the years.
But grandma's house was my house and there was no place like home.
I spent my summers in that house. I spent my holidays there as well.
I lived there off and on when my parents didn't get along as well as they should.
My grandmother was my whole world. As far as I'm concerned, she was my mother, father, and best friend all rolled up into one neat and tidy package. When I was fourteen, I decided to move there permanently. Nobody stopped me.
I had my first date on the stoop--splitting a pizza with my first boyfriend.
I had my first kiss on that stoop.
I kissed a few other boys there too.
I fought with my best friend. Fought with a few boyfriends. Tried to beat up my sister a few times too.
I discovered my grandma's body after she'd passed on.
I went to prom. Graduated from high school.
Inherited the house. Had my first wedding reception there.
I moved away. Then moved right back. Then moved away again.
For a long time, this house was exactly what my grandmother set out for it to be. It was always a place I could return to...no matter where life had taken me.
It was home. It was my home.
Sometimes, I drive through the old neighborhood. It was bad when I lived there and it's only gotten worse. I get nostalgic...this is where I lived...where most of my major life milestones occurred. I wonder who lives there now and hope that the memories that they are making are happy ones.
I wouldn't want to live there now. My current home isn't perfect, but there is way more grass and trees. It's a much safer environment for my children than what I experienced.
But I realize that my love of my childhood home has nothing to do with the house, the windows, doors, and rooms.
It was my grandmother and the love that she brought into that house. The love she gave me everyday.
And that....I can carry with me no matter where I live.