So yesterday was my birthday and as JJ will tell you, "Mommy's old." Yes, I'm officially old, but not the kind of old that 31-year-olds say they are because they miss long drunken nights and carefree days slept away. Old because on my 31st birthday, I also became a homeowner. So I'm old in the sense that I finally feel like a grown up. Old because I'll no longer live in the place I grew up, the place where my mom and grandparents raised me.
You see, I technically never left home. Sure I have my own apartment in my mother's two-family house. But before that, it was Nanny and Pop's house -- they took us in when I was 5 and my parents split. When they both passed away, I knew they'd be happy knowing I'd live the best years of my life in the home they built, so I stayed. I got married and had the great grandchild that they never got to meet. It was here that Pop's namesake took his first steps and said his first words, and just yesterday, asked how come he's never met the Nanny and Pop he sees in old pictures. "They're in heaven," my mom told J.J., and he looked up as if he understood.
Because I've never physically moved off of good ol' 41st street, I still sometimes feel like the kid who used to run outside on Saturday mornings to play box ball, punch ball, red light/green light, and all those other fun Brooklyn kid games, and race back inside only when I heard the sound of Frankie's ice cream truck in the distance. Sometimes at night, I still hear Pop calling me back because I wandered a few feet too far from our stoop. And I see Nanny's content smile as she read her books every time I visit my mom downstairs and she's doing the same thing. And once in a while on those rare Sunday mornings that my mom or sister starts cooking the gravy early, it smells like Sunday morning 25 years ago, when Pop would fry up the meatballs in his white T-shirt. It's been great living here, but I'm a grown up now, and it's time to say goodbye.
So off I go with the great responsibility to create the kind of home for J.J. that I've always known. The kind of inviting place that keeps you, and nurtures you, and protects you (and drives you just a little crazy, but you can't help but love it anyway). The kind of home my grandparents gave me.