How can I explain the belatedness of this invitation?
By Anthony Ciacci | It’s funny how we’ve known each other so long, and yet you’ve never been to my house. Things seem to have a way of interfering with even the best of intentions between two friends. But I’m glad to be seeing you Saturday. Let me tell you how to get here, since Siri can be pretty unreliable about it.
She’ll get you to the unkempt mall, whose stores change faster than my sister’s taste in shoes. That will be on your left. From there we are a little ways up the road. Make a right on a street called Jefferson Avenue. Don’t worry if you don’t see anyone outside, or if the neighborhood feels just a little too quiet. People around here like to keep to themselves on weekends. Make the first right and drive around the block until you see a house perfectly coated in lilac with trim evergreen trees on either side of a gleaming white porch.
We are the house next to that one.
We’re the one with Easter eggs covered in snow on a splintered, black bench beside the front door. You’ll know it is the right house when you see a tree whose beauty is currently choked with splotches of pale-green fungus and some holiday lights that need taking down. It is a tenacious tree, though, with beautiful blossoms that burst forth in the spring and dust the driveway in pink petals.
Come right in when you get here, no need to knock. It’ll only upset the dogs. They’re friendly, though, I promise. Well, one of them is friendly, the white one, Bear. She’s the poodle-Maltese mutt with one working eye. The other one, Zeppi, can be a little daunting. He’s a brown miniature pinscher with a streak of black hair down the middle of his back that rises into a mohawk when he’s riled up. If he gives you any trouble, just look for the closest yellow spray bottle. (I’ve got eight of these scattered around the house, just in case.) Give him a few squirts of water and that’ll settle him.
Apologies for the lemon scent—the dining room’s often in need of mopping, as it is the room where the dog’s pee pads are. I know it sounds crazy, but we hardly ever use that room. Except for the occasional get-together, or the holidays. Otherwise, as you will see, it is a space to hoard fine china, religious knickknacks, folders bloated with ancient bills, and a player piano crammed in the corner that my dad took from some dead guy’s mansion near where he works. The peach-tiled floor is pretty, and the cob-webbed chandelier is impressive—and impressively old, inherited from my late grandfather. But mostly, the dining room is a cluttered headache of a room. I’d suggest that you head straight through to the kitchen.
I wish you could’ve seen the kitchen when it was redone some years ago. All-white cabinets, immaculately white appliances, white tiling that positively shined. The kitchen retains some of that former glory, but all-white everything is not exactly a man’s best friend when it comes to upkeep. Believe me, I’ve tried to restore the kitchen’s sparkle, but over time, brownish grime has a way of seeping into everything. The grouting on the floor, the cabinet knobs, the insides of the fridge and microwave. You try scrubbing out the wear-and-tear of a family of eight. It is no small task. But at least the granite counter-tops have held up.
Please be careful not to wake up my mom. She may be sleeping on the couch in the family room, right next to the kitchen. Don’t even get me started on why she’s sleeping on the couch. Simply put, she works too much. Twelve-hour hospital night shifts would catch up with her even if she didn’t cover a portion of our town’s ambulance calls during the day, but my mother refuses to accept that fact. I told her you were coming, so she’ll probably be upstairs anyways, hoping to maintain a sense of normalcy about her home life. I suppose it is normal to want to appear normal. But I wish my mom came to terms with our less than perfect household. After all, no one is as neat and tidy as they want to be—in their homes or in their lives.
You’ll probably see my older brother Rob in the living room. It’s empty at the moment, save for a couch destined for the trash, two barely functioning lamps, and stray fibers from a purple carpet whose twenty-year tenancy on the hardwood floor ended a month ago. That room’s a work in progress, but Rob makes use of all the space. When he’s not on the computer, he’s usually galloping back and forth in the living room. Our family will often plead with Rob to calm down, but I don’t blame him. If I had to live with his autism, particularly his speech limitations, every thought taking enormous amounts of effort to voice, I’d need a release too. To me, stomping around the living room is just Rob’s way of saying, “Gee, that YouTube video was really good” or “The new Super Mario game looks awesome. I’m excited for it.” Feel free to say hello to Rob, but don’t take it personally if he’s not too enthusiastic about conversation.
If I am not somewhere downstairs, I’m probably in my room. I’ve got a great view of our backyard from there. We’ve got a whole acre, isn’t that nice? I like to think of the yard as my own slice of forest. We have this one massive weeping willow that I’ve stared at for hours. We’ve got pine trees and thick bushes that line the periphery of our fence. There’s even a little stream just beyond the fence’s borders. With my brother’s galloping, the dogs’ barking, the TV chirping, my mom’s ambulance radio sounding off at any moment, et cetera, the house can be a racket at times. I often take a breather from it all by listening to the backyard, whose loudest noises are the trees rustling in the wind.
I’m excited you’re coming to see where I’m from. My one regret is that you won’t get to meet everyone. My other two older siblings, Ann and Oscar, both live an hour away, Therese is in college, and Marie is too thriving a social butterfly to spend much time at home. When we were all younger, the house truly looked like a twister tore through the place, which is why Mom was never too keen on having people over. I don’t blame her since she was trying to contain the pandemonium of me and my five brothers and sisters. Shoes strewn about the hall, the dining room smelling … not so lemon-y. A sink full of dishes always needing to be dealt with in the kitchen. Clothes everywhere. Clothes on the couches, on the kitchen table, a flood of clothes always in the laundry room. Our household wasn’t what most people would consider “presentable.”
But I cherish the place that cradled my childhood. The place where Oscar and I spent many Friday nights playing video games and watching TV. The place where I enlisted my two younger sisters in a club whose activities included safaris in the backyard and tent-making in the living room. The place where my grandfather taught me that the secret to a good muffin is cold butter. The place that we shower in confetti every new year (as if there wasn’t enough of a mess already). The place is chaotic, and it is my home.