Two weeks ago, when we were in Los Angeles, we went by my childhood home. I always like to drive down Kirkside Road and revisit my childhood when we return to L.A., and as the kids have gotten older they’ve been able to listen to stories of my childhood. This time, as we went by, it was 5pm and getting close to Shabbat; and I had just managed to badly twist my ankle at the trampoline park that morning. I wasn’t in the mood to get out and knock on the door, as the kids encouraged me to do. Even without those complications, I wasn’t particularly interested. The house has gone through many renovations and looks nothing like the home that I grew up in, and I didn’t think that going into this newer, fancier version would do anything to preserve my memories.
So, we left Kirkside Road and drove one block over to Monte Mar Drive, where my grandparents lived during my childhood. I have beautiful memories of the years we spent around the block from them, and it was certainly fun to show the kids the house and to talk about those times. Again, I didn’t feel the need to go in.
As we drove off my grandparents’ block, one of my oldest kids asked me who my friends were growing up. I was surprised by the question, because my kids (maybe most kids?) don’t usually ask me about my childhood and they don’t know that many details. I started to tell them about my childhood best friend, Donna, and I was surprised that I had never mentioned her before.
Donna and I knew each other from birth and spent a great deal of our childhood together. She was killed in an accident while crossing the street to school when we were 15 and I think of her often, particularly on the anniversary of her death and on her birthday. And that Friday, while we were driving in the neighborhood, was her birthday.
When we drove by her house, where her mother still lives, the kids said that I had to knock on the door.
“But it’s her birthday,” I said in protest. “They might want to be left alone.”
“No,” my 15-year- old, who is far more sensitive than his years said, “That’s exactly why you have to knock.”
I protested. I used the sprained ankle card. But nothing moved the boys. And so, I exited the car and limped my way up to Donna’s house. Now, my mom and Donna’s mom (Adele) are still friends and Adele has been kept up on my life. I’m friendly with one of Donna’s brothers as well, so it’s not like I was knocking on the door of someone whose life I exited when I was 15. But it was still quite out of the blue and I was nervous.
Adele came to the door and asked, skeptically, who was looking for her, and I yelled, “It’s Romi!” The door flew open, we embraced, and the next thing I knew my entire crew was tromping into her home. Oy vey. Shabbat was fast approaching, and I’m sure we were overwhelming Adele with our sheer volume (not to mention the cantaloupe that my 6-year-old insisted that she cut up), but it was a lovely and meaningful short visit. I decided not to bring up that I knew that it was Donna’s birthday, but at some point Adele mentioned it. I leaned over and said, “I know, Adele. Why do you think my boys made me knock today? I always remember.”
We smiled that sad smile at each other and moved on.
After, I was incredibly grateful that the boys wouldn’t take no for an answer, and that we had gone over to say hello. Sometimes, it is the young people who teach us how to act and who remind us of what is truly important. And sometimes, it is the young people who help us to understand that the best way to preserve memories is to make new ones.