I have a thing about big, beautiful, older houses. I have no desire to own one, with the attendant taxes and remodelling headaches, but I do love to look and daydream. And along Broad Street there was plenty to look at. Palatial older homes with beautifully landscaped gardens. Gardens that have seen generations of children with their nannies and their pets; barbeques in summer; the sound of tennis parties; maybe even the occasional wedding.
The imagined continuity is what mostly makes me wistful. I had it growing up and took it for granted. My children never had it. Each time Uncle Sam reassigned us, we packed everything up and moved, and tried to turn it into an adventure. Each time we left part of us behind - a house that had become home, schools and teachers that had become familiar, friends we'd grown to love, a garden we had made our own, a little niche in a community.............and in each new place we started out as nobodies, knowing nobody, known by nobody, without friends. But each time we made it work.
Only now, with the clarity of hindsight, does the enormity of what we lost hit me. How do my children answer the perfectly normal question "Where are you from?" Being from Ireland is what anchors me. When I'm sad I find solace in Irish music. My children tease me about the Ireland I love. They say it no longer exists, except in my head. That may be partially true, but the rocks don't change, the sky doesn't change, the Cliffs of Moher don't change, the feeling that your ancestors breathed this same air doesn't change. And because of choices I made my children don't have that. I gave birth to five children half a world away from where their roots are . And right now that's making me sad.
How did I get from strolling past strangers' houses to here? The same meandering mental processes perhaps, that make those closest to me roll their eyes, or require me to make my point in five words or less. Houses represent stability, comfort, home; the wide and wild variety of manifestations of the nesting instinct.