A STORY ABOUT NEW ORLEANS
when home is just a house
Photography by Andy Farr. Insta: farrastro
THE PINK HOUSE
I have been trying to make my way back to The Pink House for the past thirteen and a half years, ever since I moved away, and Pa’s work and my studies have brought me through six different countries. The Pink House is a beautiful 100-year old Queen-Anne style house that no one except my parents would buy back in the 80’s, because it needed too many renovations. It was called the pink house because Ma had bought pink paint and transformed the exterior from a muggy grey to a bright fuchsia that faded to pale pink over the years. In front, the house had large white columns like ancient Greek buildings did.
Last summer, I made my way back to The Pink House. No one was renting the bottom floor where we used to live. I let myself in and walked through its empty rooms trying to remember what it looked like, but I couldn’t remember where any of the furniture had been. When I walked through each room, I recalled memories that they held.
On the porch, all of us would sit on the floor with our feet dangling off the sides and eat watermelon wedges during the summer. We would separate the black seeds in our mouths and spit them out into the garden below, hoping one would grow into a plant someday. Through the front door my brother and I would watch the mail man and the ice cream man through the large glass panels that were built in, wishing we could join them. In the living room, the four of us would gather in a huddle playing cards by candlelight when the rainstorms took the power away during the night.
I was born in the office, on a futon fitted with floral sheets, although when I revisited, I could no longer remember where the futon was. I weighed six pounds and came out with the umbilical cord still wrapped around my neck. The midwife had to unwrap the cord so I could breathe before cutting it.
In Ma and Pa’s room, I would hear distant voices at night that talked pleasantly over clinking glasses, as if at a dinner party. How strange, I thought, to be at a dinner party in an abandoned hallway during in the middle of the night. Especially when my parents had already gone to bed and no one else was in the house.
When I was little, I used to sleep next to Ma. Every night before bed, she would point at a photograph of a mother polar bear and her cub that she had taped up next to the bed and say, “The mama bear always protects the baby bear.” I wanted to believe Ma, except when I looked closer at the photograph I could see that the baby bear was not sleeping at all; it had its little black eyes wide open, staring at me from behind the fur of the mama bear as if asking to be freed.
After I finished wandering the Pink House, I stood in the middle of the living room, afternoon sun highlighting some of the old wooden floorboards, and I began to cry for the terrible emptiness; the terrible newness and unfamiliarity of it all, for I could not bring back the watermelon seeds or the mail man or the ice cream man or the candlelight or the futon fitted with floral sheets or even the ghosts whose job, it seemed, was to linger.