I had a layover in Washington DC, easily one my favorite cities in the world. Out side all of the historical and tourist things, I’ve been lucky to have some seriously wonderful times with my good friends Kyle and Laura here. I was able to get to know the lesser known parts of DC, and do things off the beaten track. Those are some truly cherished memories for me. These friends moved a crossed the world in January and now what once was my favorite lay over, has become a bit sad, knowing they aren’t here any more.
I took a walk in the neighborhood behind my hotel today and all of these thoughts set me in a rather nostalgic mood as I wandered a normal DC neighborhood. I was strolling the neighborhood with its old brick New England homes, and the many gardens, and I couldn’t help noticing a huge holly bush. It reminded me of my Grandma and Grandpa Panian’s house, where a similar holly bush grew outside the bedroom windows.
I loved that holly bush. It seemed so whimsical to me. It seemed lovely, to seeing it actually growing in the yard, a bush that was easily as tall as the house. Coming from the frigid temperatures of Minnesota where something like holly certainly doesn’t grow, it is regulated to clippings at Christmas time. Christmas, that magical time, was the only association I had with holly, out side of this bush that grew at my grand parents house, a place that could easily be described as magical to me as well. The holly, with its thick waxy leaves and bright red berries seemed, almost other worldly to me.
As much as I loved that holly bush, it was home to the most demented mockingbird on this planet, whom I hated. Mockingbirds were another thing I never saw in Minnesota, and to me was simply part of the title of a classic book. Now a mockingbird gets its name from its call, or lack there of. It usually copies other bird calls, thus sounds like a bird singing who just can’t make up its mind. So I did think seeing mockingbirds was pretty cool as they didn’t exist back home. But this damn mockingbird never knew what time of day it was. Or maybe it just had its times all mixed up because it seemed to have a schedule of roughly eight o’clock at night and two thirty in the morning. Seriously. I am a very light sleeper so snoring, lights shining through my window, those sorts of things are the bane of my existence. You can imagine what it may have been like having a deranged tweeting bird outside my window when ever I visited my grandparents. However, the several years that the mockingbird lived in that tree were my late teen and early college years when I was learning to sleep with ear plugs, so it wasn’t exactly the end of the world. Though I do remember thinking it was unfortunate that it was illegal to kill mockingbirds.
Thinking of that holly bush and the annoying mockingbird at my grandparents old house made me sad. I realized that they were now both gone, along with my grandparents house. In the last few years before they died my grandparents neighborhood was full of contractors who were tearing down the classic fifties ramblers that had first been built in the neighborhood, and replacing them with enormous mc mansions, that my family all agreed, were very ostentatious and didn’t suite the neighborhood at all. But when my family had to sell the house, and it’s foundation which was cracked to shit, they were the only buyers. Thus a mc mansion now sits on the graves of my memories, where my cousins and I used to play olly olly oxen free on the deck, where at least twenty red corduroy stockings made by my grandma would line the fireplace each Christmas, where my grandma would read and Grandpa would watch the cubs games in their squashy blue recliners. It is still incredibly sad and strange for me to think that house is gone; that they are both gone. That whole space, which its magic and whimsy, captured through the rose tinted glasses of my youth, gone.
As all this was running through my head, walking down a street in Washington DC, I hear a bird call close to me. I looked up and saw a mockingbird flit from a road sign to a power line, right above me.