An Ode to Gentrification by Alison Torres
It was large and in charge, that house. It sat on almost half an acre of land, and had a metal fence going all the way around the property. I distinctly remember my father getting in a fight with the neighbor over that fence. Something to do with the property line. It had two driveways, a two car garage, and a parking strip out front. Space was never an issue. We could almost fit the whole family in there, if they ever came. In short, the house wasn’t the problem; it was the people who lived there. Don’t look for me to repeat that.
First it was all white, and then light blue with white trim, and now, on its last life, it is brown with green trim. As I grew up, I watched my mother put her heart and soul into the landscape. The front and backyards are beautiful. My mother and father used to offer me a dollar per bucket of pine cones I picked up in the front yard. That was, until the demons that followed my father caught up with him, and he left us. At least I can sleep at night, knowing he’s gone.
I can’t lie to you, the interior, it’s rough. The narrow hardwood floors are so worn there is no finish left on them. Everything cracks and creaks, even the Mother of the house. There are two bedrooms upstairs, two on the main floor, and one downstairs. Though the blueprints of the house say there are only two rooms, total. A white lie, I suppose. All of the rooms house different people chasing their own sets of demons and avoiding their problems. Life is beginning to catch up with them, you know? We have a wood stove, not a fire place. It’s nicer that way. I grew up loading wood into a wheelbarrow and bringing it up to the house every winter in the cold. It no longer glows with fire.
The kitchen is the heart of the home. There have been many cakes, pastries, dinners, lunches, and snacks cooked in that kitchen. Many fires almost started due to neglected meals. The stove no longer comes all the way clean because of all the meals of cookings past, but it still cooks as mean as it did the day we put it in. Above the fridge, there is a water stain in the ceiling because the roof leaks. At least, I think it does. “You can only patch your problems for so long, before they start to cave in,” that’s what my mother said, the day I asked what the stain was from. Come, sit at the counter and eat dinner with me. We can watch the seasons change out the back window. But not for long.
I have lived in almost every bedroom in that house; I have a thing for change. I started in the smallest room on the main floor, from infancy to when I was a young girl. I then moved upstairs, where it got too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, but held all the best secrets. Now I live in the biggest room on the main floor, and it is always cold. I have never lived anywhere else, besides this house.
The basement is no man's land, where my brother lives. The only reason I would go down there is to toss my laundry in the wash, and run. There has been too much damage done, down there. We don’t talk anymore. I miss him.
And now, for the main event. The backyard. Everyone’s favorite part. We have a treehouse that used to have a metal slide on it, until someone realized that a metal slide didn’t slide as well when it was 100 degrees outside. In fact, it burns. We now have two ponds, where two sets of goldfish families live. We have had more barbecues in that yard than I can count, and at least three blow-up swimming pools. We even had paintball fights, until the neighbors complained. All of our pets are buried there. I wonder if they will get lonely when we have to leave.
This is my home. I have been here for twenty years, though my family has lived here for twenty-five. I don’t know anything different. But it won’t be my house for long, when the auctioneer comes to take it all away from me.
I will stand in the front row of the auction, listening to eager young couples and developers buzz about what they will do when they win the house. They will all be looking to upscale or ‘flip’ my home. You see, my neighborhood is changing, it is— how they say— on the rise, and people are looking to make money off another sad story. They won’t understand all of the things wrong with the house, like why there is a large hole in the wall in the upstairs bedroom. It’s there because my mom took a sledgehammer to the wall after she went into cardiac arrest and was gone from this world for six minutes. When she returned, her world didn’t make sense for awhile, so she started knocking down walls to find clarity.
I will marvel at the insensitive comments the auctioneer makes about the condition of my home. I will feel personally invested, when he slams down his gavel and says, “SOLD!” Loud enough for all the pets in their homemade graves to stir. Be still now, little ones, for our time together is coming to an end.
I won’t cry when they take my home. But part of me will die with the house, and when I settle on a studio apartment for $1500 I will concede that my world will never be the same. The family that lived in that house will never be the same. Relocation is not always survivable.
“Take care of the house, would you? It’s tired now,” I will say to the winner of my house, though they will only look at me with a puzzled look and walk away.
“Take care of her, would you? She’s tired now,” The house will say, as I get in my car and drive away.
The only true entity that has been there for me the entire time. Gone.