568

16 May

568 postcard

A chair is still a chair,
Even though there’s no one sitting there.
But a chair is not a house,
And a house is not a home,
When there’s no one there to hold you tight,
And no one there you can kiss goodnight.
(c. Bacharach/David)

Sometimes a house is just a house, and sometimes a house is a home, and sometimes a house is something in-between.

My dad’s parents’ home on Long Island is so iconic in the family that it is referred to simply by its number – 568. No street name is needed.

568 is where I developed my love for the New York Mets. Some of my earliest memories of 568 include the squealing sound of taxis whizzing by and the roaring engines of planes landing at JFK, flying so low you swore you could see the passengers’ faces.

It’s been the site of wedding receptions (including my parents’), birthday parties, Christening parties (including my brother’s), bridge club night, and countless Easters, Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Year Eves. My dad was born at 568. I probably had my first taste of alcohol at 568. It’s also been the scene of wakes, including both of my grandparents’ – my grandmother in 1984 and my grandfather in 1990.

568 has seen it all.

The house was built in 1912 by my grandfather’s uncle, James Gaffney, on speculation, along with the house next door. Gaffney was a contractor, so the house no doubt has good bones. My grandfather’s mother ended up getting 568, then my grandfather, then my dad’s sister and brother-in-law. 568 has witnessed the transformation of its town from a sleepy hamlet to a bustling village.

When I found out that it was for sale (before finding out it already sold) and saw the photographs of its empty rooms, I cried.

The truth is, I left 568 for the last time a long time ago.

568 will never leave me.

O bonny Portmore, I am sorry to see,
Such a woeful destruction of your ornament tree
For it stood on your shore for many’s the long day,
Till the long boats from Antrim came to float it away.
O bonny Portmore, you shine where you stand,
And the more I think on you the more I think long,
If I had you now as I had once before,
All the Lords in Old England would not purchase Portmore.

(c. L. McKennitt)

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