I dreamt of the old house, the one I grew up in. We were living there now and as I looked on the tiny back yard I realized all my siblings, nieces and nephews were alone, left alone.
There was a tree there, in the space between the split driveways, an apple tree. When I was young it provided shade and smooth tawny bark, shiny, peeling and touchable. When I was just a little older, I could climb it and nestle in the crotch of it, hidden slightly from the glare of the sunlight, the blacktop.
I gazed out on the yard and said “they’re all alone!” And I saw that the tree had been cut down, the triangle it sat on, lopped off in shape and re-blacktopped to erase the memory of that tree. “I don’t want to live here anymore,” I cried out.
If Todd was the tree, he had provided some shade, some shelter, some place to hide behind, and not much fruit. If Todd was the tree, he is gone, lopped off and re-blacktopped.
A few years ago I was driving on the 210 freeway from Rancho Cucamonga after a Sippy gig one night. I was viewing the online tour of that house on my new iPhone. My family had sold it to an Israeli contractor who’d made bold, modern alterations to it. As I toured the house, I tried to understand the rooms again; I couldn’t recognize them anymore. Where was the den where a shelf of books had fallen on my brother while I had a piano lesson? He was buried in volumes on classical music and Judaism and I didn’t want to interrupt the lesson to dig him out. Where was the back hall by the washing machine where our housekeeper had asked me and Bobby and Glen “which one we wanted to be?” One said Bobby Sherman, one Glen Campbell and I was Paul McCartney. Where was the cramped dinette with those famously chaotic weeknight dinners (before the stern stepfather killed the party?)
I couldn’t fathom the layout of the house anymore; I was exhausted in nostalgia, put down the iPhone and turned to the driver of the van to tell the tale of where I’d been. But as I did so, a giant highway sign passed over my head: MYRTLE AVENUE it proclaimed. This was the name of the street where this house existed in New Jersey, but this sign was in Southern California. I’ve been told the 210 is a magical highway, producing an In and Out Burger just when you need one, a veterinarian, a donut shop or the gas station you have a credit card for. The highway proved its magic to me that night.