Six years ago, my mom and I met for lunch in my hometown of Edison, New Jersey. I had some time before my train back to New York City, so I suggested we drive by our old house, a 1961 suburban ranch my parents bought for $45,000 in 1971 when my mom was pregnant with me. We parked across the street and I stared at the new curved driveway that decimated the huge magnolia tree in the front yard, and the grass replacing the 1970s rock garden my dad put in during the late 1980s.
“Let’s go inside,” my mom said.
She suggested it as a fun lark, like pulling off the road on the way to Florida to see Colonial Williamsburg. It infuriated me, especially because she was the one who divorced my dad and why the house now belonged to someone else. While I had my own home and my own family in Los Angeles now, the only recurring dreams I’d ever had were of revisiting this house.
“No,” I told her. We can’t just ring their doorbell, complete strangers, in the middle of the day without emailing the owners’ first and giving them a chance to clean the place up.
She got out of the car and started walking toward the front door. Eventually, I followed her, ten feet behind.
The woman who owned the house remembered my mom, having bought the place from her nearly 20 years earlier. She offered us a tour because she was nice and that was clearly what we were asking for. I walked past an etched glass panel with a dolphin on it that now separated the dining room from the den, where I would sit and watch The Brady Bunch after school. I didn’t want to live on Gilligan’s Island or get into a tour bus with The Partridge Family, but I did want to be a Brady. I had great parents and a nice childhood, but I was a solitary, socially anxious kid who was an only child until I was nearly eight, and wanted to join the California-sun Bradys, who were never lonely.
We finished the tour, and my mom, concerned about me, asked me how it felt to see the house. “Weird,” I kept repeating, unable to explain the emotions I had.
I can explain them now. Because last week I took a tour of The Brady Bunch house.