I don’t remember House #1. My mom told me it was an apartment in Santa Monica. Babies are happy anywhere.
I lived in House #2 when I was two. My sister smelled like baby shampoo all the time (California Baby—sunshine, plumeria, and grapes with undertones of hot dirt), didn’t do very much, and didn’t have a favorite place judging by how much she cried. My spot was the tomato garden.
The tomato plants towered over my head and created a falsely private space where I could hide from the sun and let the warm earth form to my body. When I looked up, the leaves formed an intricate pattern of light and shadow that shifted in the wind. I was in a kaleidoscope that traversed the curves of my ankles and the jump between my skin and my Wellies. I picked small mountains of cherry tomatoes and kept them next to the bucket that Mom had given me. I was supposed to return with it filled to the red-fruited brim, but I never left my small forest with the bucket more filled than how it started. It was difficult to pace myself so I rarely did. With each careless bite, tomato juice would trickle over my chin and all the way to those Wellies, leaving a faint red stain on my exposed skin, and the small mountains of bucketed tomatoes would erode to only rolling hills, then simple knolls, and then cease to exist.
House #4 was on a busy street. I don’t think we fully unpacked before we moved to House #5, three months later. The yard was shallow and close to traffic, so my sister and I would scooter in the alley between our back wall and the row of white garages. There were families above and next to us, in houses that looked like ours, and their children would sometimes play with us. I don’t remember their names or features. In my recollection, they are only extra bodies in the alley where we skated, scooted, biked, ran, and laughed. The concrete was uneven, so our laughs would vibrate.
Dad’s House #6
My dad rented a room to a few women to help him and his yoga instructor fiancé make rent. One woman was Brazilian. She was always sleeping when we woke up and out when we were going to sleep. Another woman had a cat. My sister and I would sit stealthily on the old purple velvet couch in front of the Vishnu tapestry and spy on her in our dead garden. She would flatten the crisp grass and put her cat on her crisscrossed legs. Then, she would take turns brushing her and her cat’s hair with the same brush.
House #7 had a pool that was colder than the ocean by Dad’s house. In the winter I played “Arctic Diver” which should have been called “Inviting Frostbite.”
Mom says we’ll live here for a long time. Maybe as long as the hundred year-old oak trees that canopy our house. But not me, I’ll be away at college, House #11.