THE HOUSE AT 25
by Lydia Bogar
I can return to the house at 25 because, when I cleaned it out and sold it three years ago, I did so with respect. Respect for the efforts taken by Daddy to buy it. The efforts of Mom, with love and support from Papa, to keep it. Respect for the gardens, the contents of the cabinets, the memories in the cellar. I can sit in the zero-gravity chair at Liza’s house, in my brother’s old room, enjoy the reflexology, and not be intimidated by the room that was his space. The best part is that I can easily say I am going to Liza’s house. Not home. Not Mom’s. Not my old house.
The house is full of life again, a life of a different kind. A single woman gardener who cooks from scratch but who is not my mother. In at least a hundred ways, she is not my mother. A nurse. A massage therapist. A lesbian. And yet, she is like her.
Liza has a few of Mom’s cookbooks. It seemed the right thing to do. She keeps them in the same place on the counter where Mom kept hers. Kindred spirits. Since Liza believes in and practices alternative, holistic medicine, I wonder if Mom will communicate with her from heaven. Absolutely in heaven, nothing half way for Ruthie. Nothing halfway, I suspect, for Liza either.
Liza is not an ordinary nurse but a holistic nurse working with distressed patients in a community clinic. In it for the long haul. She is fearless and focused, which at her core, was also my mother. The mother, the widow, the only child. The survivor.
Two dogs, one old Bassett and one very spunky mongrel. There is dog damage at 25–chewed baseboard and door trim. A cracked window not repaired. The garage no longer holds my mother’s odds and ends but Liza’s odds and ends, mostly for her gardening. I have not been in the cellar yet, but it isn’t necessary for me to go there. I know this house, every bit of it, and yet, it is no longer mine. Mine is at number 8. Mine for 44 years, twice the length of time that I lived at 25.
Twenty-five. Written out, it doesn’t taste different. With the exception of the dog fence, the yard looks the same. Maybe when those big ugly old pines come down, it will look different. The Shasta daisies look the same. The Rugosa roses that trail the ranch fence. The flamboyant Scotch Broom that welcomes spring. The shed–with its tired, ragged doors open–looks abandoned. The birdhouse that I made at camp in 1958 is no longer on the south side of the shed. It is on a tree at number eight. The dogs and cats that live at twenty-five run in and out of the shed, taking refuge from the rain or heat, soon to be snow and cold.
Scout, the frantic Beagle mix, barely reminds me of Bobo, my first dog. My clearest image of Bobo is a small black and white photo of her with Daddy. Poor, silly old girl. She kept Mom company as the nest emptied.
That thought reminds me of the crazy Malamute that Steven adopted when he got out of the Air Force in 1973. That dog chewed the headboard and then the smaller, wagon-wheel footboard. What a sad sight that was.
Dogs own houses and people.
Our own “Renaissance Woman,” Lydia has done everything from teaching English to doing volunteer emergency service. She says she “hails from Woosta– educated at BOLLI.”