The house stood in the middle of the street, right behind the communal mailbox. It was a nice home, with a garage that could squeeze in two cars if you really tried, not that we ever used it for that. Instead the garage was full of boxes, boxes from classrooms and full of baby clothes. There was bins full of Christmas ornaments, surrounded by two large couches, all memories that we couldn't bring ourselves to throw away. The basement of the house belonged to our renter, Nancy Fisher. Although she has made some memories over the years, she doesn't play a big role in my story. As my mom was a teacher, and had also traveled the four corners of the globe, you can imagine what our house looked like. Well, maybe you can’t, but I can… Buddhist statues set on tables with elephant trunks for legs, fancy golden stitch works hung on the wall. A metal Prometheus fighting an eagle on a red coffee table sat next to dozens of shiny tin jugs, all surrounded by piles of books. Books full of artwork, of people, of places to go… lining the coffee table, the hallway, the bookshelves in my mom’s room.
A picture of my mother always caught my eye, before dad, before school, before life brought her down, she looked happy, surrounded by lion cubs that she snuck into the zoo to see. She had so many stories… of getting stuck in jail, being interrogated, getting chased by sharks, and swimming with dolphins. She doesn't tell those stories anymore… The point is, and yes, I do have a point, is that was my life, and that was my mom and when mom was happy she made you happy too.
The one memory that comes to my mind when I think happiness is Irish music. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, what kind of memory is that? Well, I’ll tell you. It all started with a gift, a gift in the form of a radio. It didn’t take long to find an Irish station, and since my mom is Irish, and determined to act as such, it became our favorite station. One day we were working in the kitchen, my twin brother, Ian, was somewhere else as he always was.. so we decided to dance.
It started with a step, then another, a few fumbles, and we were tapping our own routine in the little kitchen that never stayed clean. Throwing our arms into the air and kicking our legs, we danced… and danced some more… I could’ve stayed in that moment forever. The kitchen forgotten, we jumped around, banging elbows into counters and knees into legs, the music spurred us on and on. A smile was stuck on both our faces, plastered on as if by glue when the music stopped and we both doubled over laughing, trying to breath at the same time. After that, we listened to the radio almost every day, waiting for the right song to come on and take us away... back to the place where nothing mattered. I remember showing the dance to my brother, of course he didn’t get it. He didn’t understand why that dance was so important to us. But we loved it, we connected with it, we were happy with it.
Long after that first dance, and many dances later, the radio stopped working. Me and my mom both tried to find a way to play the Irish music once again but could never get ourselves to go through the trouble of turning on a laptop or burning a CD when it was time to work. So we worked in silence...
Even though we haven’t danced for a long time, and I’ve gathered quite a few happy memories since then, I don’t think I will ever be as happy as that first time, when the music kept playing for longer than usual... and our smiles didn’t fade from our faces until the darkness of night swept past the picture of my mother, with the lion cubs in her lap...past the stacks of books in the hallway, past the red coffee table and Prometheus statue, past the fancy gold stitch works and the tables with elephant trunks for legs, and the Buddhist statues surrounded by rows of beads. And past the house in the middle of the street, right behind the communal mailbox. The garage could fit two cars if you really tried... not that we ever used it for that.