I looked forward to seeing Elissa. Although we had not been married for thirty years, we had not lost each other entirely either. A durable bond had been forged out of the love we shared for our children, and now for their children, and out of memories of a past long gone.
Although the streets of Berkeley were still familiar, they had grown strange enough for me to miss a turn before arriving at her house. I climbed the steps past the rose bushes and bougainvillea in the wintry front yard whose skeletal remains were overgrown because the gardener could not bring herself to cut them back. Entering the house I had departed so long ago, I was reminded how different the two of us finally were. In the decades that had wizened us like the vines in her yard, I had occupied fourteen residences in five separate cities. In all that time, she had never left the home we once shared.
Stepping into the interior of wood and leaded glass, I encountered once again its familiar warmth, whose elements were virtually unchanged. Everything was in its place of thirty years before — the handcrafted furniture still half-hidden in a profusion of plants, the cookware and appliances, among them gifts I recognized from our wedding, the old silverware and china, the volumes in the bookcases, the children’s photographs on the wall – all exactly as the day I left. All as when my daughter was still a child.
My heart was already full from the sight of these objects when high on the mantel my eye caught a favorite photograph taken by my mother of the little girl I had once held in my arms. This blast of memory was more than I could handle as a wave of grief swelled inconsolably towards me, then crested, and broke into wracking sobs. When the welter had subsided, I pulled myself together as best as I was able and walked into the kitchen where Elissa was waiting.
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