The House of Change



I always knew we had arrived when I would see the mountain with the face that had a nose like mine carved into it and when the loud buzz of the cicadas would welcome us back. The purple minivan Dad would pack us into—a 2000 Chrysler Voyager— would bump along the cobblestone road that led to the back corral of my grandparents house. The steel gates, once a bright shade of turquoise, were rusted over and creaked when anybody opened them. The car would be parked there among the chicken that were kept so that they could be made into mole later in the year. Sometimes, they could be seen perched atop the hood of the car, scratching their claws into the car.

Part adobe and part brick, Abuelito and Abuelita’s house would be home for two weeks out of the summer. It was divided into two parts, the main house and the guest room. Both faced each other, painted in a light shade of yellow that would make everybody’s face glow when the sun was at its highest. Between them, there was a small garden filled with tiny, delicate, purple flowers that grew out of soil that felt more like clay. If you laid down and sat still enough, you could see all the ants and slugs move between the leaves.

The house had a wall facing the street and a grassy side road that led to a river. Every year the wall would be painted a different color. One year it was white, the next it was pink. I remember it most when it was blue. That was the year before my eleventh birthday and I watched from the window a horse run through the street, so fast it only looked like a black blur. A swarm of bees followed closely behind it and all I could do was look as it slammed its head into the blue wall, even though my mother told me not to. I could hear its skull crack as it collided with it, leaving behind an angry red mark. The horse collapsed into the street, still shaking and throwing its head into the ground as it tried to escape from the bees. The blood flowed freely from its head and body, filling the ground with it. It took days to get rid of the stain from the wall and the body was taken to a nearby ditch. By the next summer, abuelito had ordered a new coat of paint, bright green, and the horse was forgotten. Instead, a hummingbird would fly straight into the now green wall. My cousin and I ran towards it, holding it in our hands to show my dad. But there was nothing we could do as it twitched its final moments in our hands. We buried it under a lima tree next to the purple van.

After I graduated from middle school,the yearly visits stops. School got in the way and the rumors had begun to spread about how dangerous it was to travel by car to Mexico. It wasn’t until the summer before my senior year of high school when I would visit again. But it was all different, abuelita was sick, some kind of monster was in her brain, stealing away all her memories. I didn’t care if it rained, or if the roosters crowed or if the flowers were blooming, I just wanted her to remember my name. I didn’t go out to lay in the rain that year because Dad’s eyes were sad, so I stayed inside the living room looking at the orange walls and tapping my feet on the salmon colored tiles. I spent my days curled in a floral, outdated, couch staring down at a phone that had no signal and awkwardly smiling at family I hadn’t talked to in years.

She didn’t get better and soon the couch was starting to fill up with people I didn’t know. I moved to an old handmade chair made of wood and twine in the corner of the living room. I scribbled on a old notebook that was used only to keep track of soccer scores and wrote the essay that would put me through college, the last gift the house would give me. I knew that after that visit the only thing that would be left would be the echoes of the past and a place in time I could never go back to, no matter how much I wished.

#lookingback