When I was in the fourth and fifth grades, my father would drive out past the ring of suburbs circling toledo after mass on sunday, instead of taking us all home, once or twice a month. our destination: a Parade of Homes. my memories of these afternoons have merged into one foggy event, clouded over with that particular slanting gold of afternoon sunlight, that begins with me chirping from the backseat of the family car.
“dad! wrong turn!”
“no honey, we’re making a stop on our way home today.”
“oh no… ”
and the car navigates turns onto increasingly unfamiliar and empty streets, despite my prayers to every saint i could remember from religion class to intercede on my behalf, possess Dad, and drive this car back home. after an eternity we turn off some country road into a Subdivision; we roll past a huge chunk of marble with a huge brass plaque saying something like “Waterford,” “Stone Ridge,” or “Tiffany Lakes,” and drive a road that wanders in lazy curves and loops through manicured lawns according to the plan of some architect/landscape designer. Dad parks in front of one of the massive empty Homes and we walk on the sidewalk to the driveway, up the driveway, then up another sidewalk from the driveway to the house. the hedges between this sidewalk and the Three-Car Garage are as tall as i am, but they give way to a beautiful garden at the front of the house.
i climb the steps of the All-Brick Front Patio and enter the house. the sunlight drips like a golden, iridescent mucus down the Beige Walls and the Stainless Steel appliances, pooling on the Italian Marble Countertops and the strip of heavy floor-protecting plastic that leads from room to room. in memory this viscous sunlight impedes progress along the narrow plastic path, making me stay longer in each room that my attention span at this age should allow for the viewing of arranged furniture simulating life in empty Homes.
I push through the gelatinous combination of sunlight and projected nostalgia, down the long hallway dividing the Entertaining Area of the house (the Dining Room large enough for an 18 foot table, the Living Room with the Two-Story Ceiling, the Entry Foyer with the Salvaged-Oak Front Door and the Hardwood Floor) from the Living Area (the Family Room with Floor-to-Ceiling windows looking onto a Square-Acre Backyard, and a man-made lake surrounded by the Square-Acre Backyards and Homes of the neighbors) and and into the Kitchen. a group of women in their sunday clothes are gathered around the Kitchen Island with the Italian Marble Countertop, watching the Realtor demonstrate the Adjustable Faucet on the Stainless Steel Double-Basin Sink. my mother is among them. she smiles at me and i wander through more Open Floor Plan rooms to the Back Stairway near the Three-Car Garage (not the Grand Stairway in the Entry Foyer).
I walk the row of empty bedrooms upstairs, each with its own incentives beyond private space. one has Bay Windows with Extra-Deep Window Seats, another boasts a 9×9 Sq Ft Walk-in Closet; each has its own Full Bathroom, each represents a brand new life of Upper-Middle Class suburban affluence.
We will pick one of these houses, based on factors far beyond my understanding, and we will fill it with our things and in this way we will know success. we will sit at the Kitchen Island and eat our food off Authentic Italian Marble. Mom will cook in one of the two Stainless Steel Ovens – maybe she will use both to prepare each meal. Dad will work in the dedicated Office with its Stained-Oak Panelling and he will make more money, and we will buy more things, and our things will pile up around us in one of these Homes in one of these Gated Communities. my friends’ parents will learn the correct code to type into the security box that opens the gate so that my friends can visit me in this fortress.
We will sit in our Square-Acre Backyard and look at the man-made lake, and wave at the neighbors in their own Square-Acre Backyards, but we will not approach them. we will like to sit there, and sometimes we will turn around to look at our Home, and imagine all of our things safely stored inside, and we will be happy.