En route today to a memorial service in Brooklyn Heights, I went out of my way to visit the Cobble Hill brownstone where I made my first grown up home post college with my now husband. We had the whole ground floor which seemed palatial. We strung chili pepper lights around the kitchen and always kept them on. Large bay windows overlooked a back garden which we couldn't use but we didn't care: the view was enough. We shopped for fresh spices on Atlantic Avenue, we entertained the same friends with wine and fish we used to share keg parties and pretzels with; we bought a giant Christmas tree that showed off our tall ceilings and commitment to mark seasons together.
Today when I got off the subway after several decades, I moved across the familiar streets with the certainty I used to possess coming back from my first magazine job in Manhattan, when alI I worried about was a cranky boss and what time our landlords- who lived above us- would allow their newly-walking toddler to practicing running noisily above our heads. The neighborhood looked surprisingly the same: charming and cozy and flush with families. I faced our old facade as one does a familiar but forgotten friend at a wedding. First from across the street, as I needed some emotional distance. Then I crossed over and stood near the front steps.
I once scooped up my mail here and barreled inside. I was not yet a wife or a mother or even a home owner. In fact I was as separate from my future life in Los Angeles and Connecticut and as a young mother to two boys as I sometimes feel now. I felt the undertow of the past suddenly try to pull me under so I did what I often do to steady myself: I took a picture. Then I noticed them: a pair of tiny red sneakers were on the first step. It was only back at my current home going through the images from today that I realized I had also captured my tiny shadow on the side: whether a symbol of my inclusion in the past or my recession from it, I am still not sure.