Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The House on Darby Boulevard

By Roy Ortega

I lay half awake in my trundle bed and contemplate the day ahead of me. The smell of freshly mowed grass fills my room. Outside my window, I hear my father talking to Mr. Proscelle next door. A moment later, the sweet smell of fresh home-made tortillas, chorizo con huevos and frijolitos refritos comes pouring in from the kitchen of our house on Darby Boulevard. From my room, I can hear the soft shuffle of my mother’s slippers as she prepares our morning meal. “Levantensen hijos. Se les hace tarde.“ Wake up, kids. It’s getting late. My little brother gently rubs the sleep out of his eyes. In the next room, I can hear my sisters giggling as they comb each other’s hair.

I open my eyes and look around. The room is suddenly quiet and lonely. A deep sadness envelopes me as I realize I was only dreaming. Dreaming about a life and time that has long passed. I am no longer a teenager and I am no longer at home with my family on Darby Boulevard. It’s 40 years later and I am trying hard to come to grips with the fact we’ve reached another somber milestone in my family’s history. Our family home is being sold today.

Seven years after my mother passed away and more than three years after my father died, the quaint little house on Darby Boulevard where my parents raised six children is no longer a part of our lives. A new family is taking possession of the house our parents bought in 1963, a house that once sheltered and brought comfort, laughter, security and happiness to a generation of children. It was a house where hopes and dreams were born. It was just a house, but I learned that even after my parents died, the old house still brought me immense joy and emotional nourishment. It was a place where I could still visit and reminisce about the many happy times we spent there.

Selling our house was one of the most difficult things my siblings and I have ever done. The truth is, for at least two years after my father died, we made only a half-hearted attempt to sell the house. The many happy memories were just too hard to let go.

The cuartito, the small backyard workshop that my father built with his own hands and which served as his special hideaway replete with assorted valuable junk and handyman novelties. The back patio, which served as the scene of countless barbeques and pinata celebrations. Inside, the expanded den that served as the gathering place for the Ortega kids to watch TV, listen to music or just lounge around enjoying each other’s company. And finally, the kitchen where my mother spent her life making sure we were all amply fed and where a comal on the stove worked almost non-stop supplying a family with tortillas served up with a healthy side dish of love and compassion.

As with every story, there is a beginning, a middle and an ending. As this chapter of our family’s history comes to an end, I look back fondly at my old home and shed a tear. But it’s quickly followed by a smile for the many happy memories my family made there - and for the new ones that will be made by a new family starting their lives today at the house on Darby Boulevard.

Roy Ortega may be reached at rortega54@elp.rr.com