Dancing and playing on the gleaming butterscotch floors, scuff marks and glitter mapped our days. Adventures and misadventures. Love and loss. And presiding over it all, the cat, who owned the whole apartment during her nineteen years. Twelve doors for her to sharpen her claws on. And at the front door one day, cops, hot on somebody’s trail. Alas, wrong apartment. Another day, a couple marvelled at how the place had changed before realizing they too had the wrong apartment. But for us it was the right apartment. Its two flights of stairs and two landings prompted my youngest to ask: Why are they named with aeronautical terms? I ventured: Because kids come flying down them to go play with friends.
Scents of oranges in summer, coffee in the a.m., pies in the oven, popcorn for movies, supper every day, buttered toast at midnight. On the balcony: starry nights and sun-kissed afternoons. And from the sunroom I watched kids tumble down the leafy road to school or scurry bundled up against snowfall, laughing all the way. Nineteen Christmases, numerous birthday celebrations, one wake. Pumpkins for Halloween, paper hearts for Valentine’s Day, flowers and Sweet Maries on Mother’s Day. The Easter bonnets we crafted, and the Christmas trees trimmed to set the mood for live readings of A Christmas Carol. Were those sounds in the night the rads clanking or Marley’s ghost rattling the chains he forged in life?
Those symphonic radiators kept us warm on winter nights, sometimes too warm. Then, the opening of windows – windows that looked out onto the seasons as they rolled by: emerald buds, crimson leaves, snowy branches. In the big tree next to our place bluejays nested, woodpeckers pecked, squirrels and racoons skittered and snoozed. Out other windows, the dog watched expectantly for passing hounds. Outside on the stoop, she wagged her tail, thanking our lovely neighbours for the treats.
Child-scrawled pictures get packed next to artwork done by the accomplished artist that child became. Into the same box, jokes scribbled by my only son when he was a kid, presaging his career as writer and standup comic. Broken drumsticks from our drummer girl lay next to the zines she created for a series titled Quarantine Queen: journeys into a world that for months now has seen no guests tangoing in our living room (as they have in the past, above the best neighbours in the world).
In the co-op shed is a cart branded “Carts Vermont”, a sophisticated sounding name for a seemingly rickety buggy. It has moved many a household and will move many more. Over days, it takes mine. In the empty rooms of the old place I hear the piano notes of Amélie come tinkling down the airborne staircase, as if my youngest is sitting at her keyboard. But that keyboard has gone to its new home. And the players have all moved on.