I grew up in lots of homes, starting with a modest blue house in Northeast Minneapolis. I’ll call it Benjamin in the name of clarity here. When my parents divorced, my mom, my brother, and I moved in with my great-grandmother Nana. Her house itself wasn’t stately, but she had fancy furniture and expensive lamps, and as she got older and less lucid she grew less amused by our curiosity – especially when we used our hands. She made a killer red jello salad, and the recipe lives on today. We ate it with perogies for Easter yesterday, in fact, even though Nana never cooked Polish food, even though Nana was Polish.
When Nana died, we moved to an apartment in Roseville, and when our mom died, we went back to live with our dad, his basement renters, and a new nanny named Tasha with bleached blonde hair and a spanking new high school diploma. She was as underprepared as the rest of us, but she was honest and generous, and I liked her immediately. A year later we moved to southwestern Ohio to live with our aunt and uncle for two years. I spent a year with my sister and brother-in-law before it was back to good ol’ Benjamin. When I was a senior in high school and the house became too small for both my dad and I, a friend’s family had an empty bedroom waiting.
When I graduated from high school, I chose Florida. It was far and warm, and I was fancy free, never homesick. Once I had a choice, I didn’t stop moving. I lived with strangers who became friends, friends who became strangers, friends who remained friends. I learned how to cohabit and communicate differently than how we’d done it at home, where it was all notes and silence when it wasn’t shouting and slammed doors. Not exactly healthy, but certainly not without expression.
I’m back in Northeast Minneapolis while I’m home, and the neighborhood has evolved into this hip arty district with great food and lots of locally-owned shops. I want to hang out here more than anywhere while I’m home, when before the neighborhood gave me the creeps. My dad still lives in Benjamin, but he’s constantly renovating, so in his way, he’s still making change. I’m staying with his first wife, my siblings’ mother, where she’s lived since 1974 in a house they used to share before I was even a possibility. It’s not a conventional arrangement, but we’ve found a cadence, she and I, and it usually begins with the local paper and butter on toast. She mothers me with small gestures, things like emptying the garbage can in my bathroom, leaving the porch light on at night, and keeping the fridge stocked with soup. We blew the snow from her driveway a few weeks ago, me for the first time and she … for the hundredth? Today her lawn is all mustardy grass and slush, a patchwork of residual winter. She gives me free reign of her kitchen, and that feels like the offer of the year.
Time is, and always has been, a thing of significance and irrelevance at once. Last week when I looked at a calendar so that my dad and I could schedule dinner, I realized I’d been here for three weeks. After a year and a half away, three weeks felt like a blip. It felt like a gift, too.
Whenever I’m back in Minneapolis, it takes time to find a steady pulse and to be comfortable within such close proximity to family again. Sometimes I pass with flying colors. Sometimes I fall ass over teakettle. In a week, I can cook dinner with my brothers, have breakfast with my dad, go through old photos with my aunt, and have pizza and paint a room with my cousins. I can’t believe how grown-up and gorgeous the teenagers in my family have become. The young ones who weren’t talking when I left are more articulate than most adults. Vacationing back home is a refresher crash course in How To Be Around Family. It’s good, even when it’s fucking hard.
I have a car here, and after a week of commuting by bus and foot, I broke down and pulled it out of storage. A nanosecond later, I got a ticket for expired tabs, for which I stewed and cursed time, the car, and every other nonsensical source. When I went straight home and poached some pears, all was instantly well again. I’m not here consistently, so while I am, I try not to waste time, but sometimes I need space to recover. When I do, I hide out and read. Or drive alone with no radio. Or mix a simple drink with whatever we’ve got. At the end of Easter dinner last weekend, I made us a nightcap that we drank from coupes. It was pale pink and feminine and I was surprised when everyone wanted one. My brothers, built like football players, finished theirs first.
Grapefruit Daiquiri (makes 1)
2 ounces good white rum
1 ounce fresh red grapefruit juice
squeeze from half a lemon
1/2 ounce simple syrup
Pour over ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake. Strain into coupe glasses.