I was 9 when I left my mother. Our studio apartment on Huntington Avenue. The Tobin School. My two (first) cats: Kitten Pepper Randolph, and Lady. When I lost my favorite book: Henrietta Wild Woman of Borneo. When I first and last lived in a place called home. In the original sense. I moved to Roxbury. To Cambridge. To Newton. To Southern Florida. To Brighton/Allston, places with and without space to park a car, or fly a kite. I moved to Harlem. A suburb outside (way outside) of Boston. In just that order. Sometimes twice.
I've lived in my share of houses. In places I've decorated with the same African gods, princesses, masks my daughter makes eyes at; masks my daughter knows are mine. That's YOU Mummah!
I've lived alone. With men. College friends. In a shared and a silent bed. I've had a family, grown well above and beyond the confines of a small space on Huntington Avenue.
And yet, when I walk by 270 Huntington (and I have, and I do, both in my mind and in the flesh), I remember, as if randomly, but more purposeful and poignant, less polite, more profound:
How many winding steps I once took to get to our apartment. How the lighting was so dim it was my first analogy of a country-fog. How it felt to be hungry, over-full. How it felt for your tears to swell and seep into your ears when laying in bed causing a warm and hallowed near-deafness. How to later listen with a hungry ear to the wall, when the neighbors played Harlem Blues. How it came to be that I'd love cats, and loathe pigs, and learn to smile though my head was full of city sounds. How I was, and will be if forever only in my heart: a small, city, child.
And, of course, how Mummi mothered me, even when she could barely mother herself
But she did.
As well she/we could.