Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Despedida Rosa

Selling Casa Rosa has stirred up such complicated feelings for me. The most similar feeling I've had is my myriad "despedidas" over the years. Despedida means goodbye, both in Portuguese and Spanish. I remember being overwhelmed by a mix of grief, reluctance, fear, excitement, and happiness with nearly every goodbye party I've had. You're leaving behind people and places you've grown to love. You've set down roots. You've created dreams and plans involving the place you've called home. And then it's time to leave, to forge a life in another setting and start the emotional roller coaster anew.

Selling Casa Rosa most feels like my despedida when I was a high school exchange student in Maringá, Paraná. I spent a year down there, my first experience in Brazil, and had such a fantastic experience I didn't want to come home to New Mexico. I remember sobbing for weeks leading up to my departure date. When it came time to actually get in the car and drive to the airport, I bawled like a baby and had to be pried from the arms of my then-boyfriend Fernando. For as much as I didn't want to leave Maringá, I was also excited to see my mom and dad again, to be starting college in the fall, to make new friends and have new adventures.

In the big scheme of things, I knew that moving on was the right choice, but God was it hard. I had terrible reverse culture shock, and spent a good several months being an arrogant pill. All I wanted was to go back to Brazil and resume my fun life as an exchange student, and that totally clouded my vision of being home. I thought New Mexico was provincial, that our culture was piggish, that my peers were dumb, that my parents didn't understand what I'd experienced abroad, that I'd fundamentally changed and could no longer relate to anyone in my daily life. Of course, sense eventually returned to my teenage head and I had a fantastic college experience, but it was a long, bumpy road to that point.

When I think about selling Casa Rosa, I'm right back to that last desperate, weepy embrace I gave Fernando before going to the airport. I cried so hard, all I wanted to do was cling to this person and this life I'd come to call my own. Deep down I knew Fernando wasn't my forever partner, that we didn't have enough in common to continue a satisfying relationship. I knew that Maringá wasn't the right place for me either, a beautiful city but slightly isolated and hickish. Still, it was tremendously hard to let go.

We originally got Casa Rosa back in 2001 because a) it was a fantastic investment, and b) I was certain I'd return to Rio to live "for good" in the near future, and Casa Rosa would be my home. Well, plans changed. Mozambique wasn't even on my radar at that point, much less getting together with Rico and moving here to California. It's become clear that Rio won't be our home base, and we simply don't get down to Brazil enough to take advantage of that spectacular pink house.

Renting seems like an obvious solution, but it's not that easy. Casa Rosa is on the equivalent of the historic register, and it is full of the original features from 1910. Renters, no matter how well-intentioned and careful, end up destroying property. Things break. Old houses constantly need maintenance. It would be a challenge to be good landlords were we based in Rio; doing the job from another continent is a massive headache and simply not worth the effort.

We could also just leave the house empty, with only the caretaker around, as we've done for the greater part of the last decade. This option is tempting - we could hold on to this one-of-a-kind property and not have to say our goodbyes - but again the energy and resource drain is not insignificant. I think we're all at the point (and by "we" I mean me, my mom and Rico) where we want to simplify, concentrate on the lives we are currently living in the homes we currently occupy.

I do feel a bit like I'm walking away from an unfulfilled destiny with the sale of Casa Rosa. I always pictured myself living there, fully integrated in the funky, bohemian neighborhood of Santa Teresa. I'd be the artist in the pink house. We'd throw fantastic parties and host friends from all over the world. We'd know our neighbors by name. I'd suntan on the veranda and sketch the architectural details of the house while the bonde rattled by on the street below. Casa Rosa would feel like home, something that in all honesty it never truly has.

Of course we could pick up everything tomorrow, sell our furniture, put the cats in their traveler crates, and move to Rio. This Casa Rosa dream life isn't out of our reach, but I'm at the point where I have to admit that I'm not prepared to make the sacrifices for that Brazilian fantasy to come true. The life I imagine in Casa Rosa is definitely viewed through rose-colored glasses (ha, ha). It's not all bohemian wonderland. Maintaining the house is hard work. There are security issues and quality of life issues. More than anything, the life I desire in Casa Rosa would entail leaving this blessed existence in California, something I'm uninterested in doing. We love it here, and in contrast to the pink house in Santa Teresa, Casa Cali has felt like home from day one.

It's also a very good time to sell property right now in Rio, so the timing is good and we're hoping that the sale will allow our family to do new and wonderful things here in California.

We have some fantastic memories of Casa Rosa, the most spectacular being our wedding in 2008. I'd rather that amazing night be what I associate with the house, not another 10 years of long-distance maintenance that will leave us all with a bitter, resentful taste in our mouths. In my rational mind, I know it's time to move on and let someone else fulfill a dream and live their destiny in Casa Rosa. That gorgeous house deserves to be lived in, to be someone's home. Still, I can feel a lineup of sobs deep in my throat and all I really want to do is cling.

To say goodbye, a proper despedida for Casa Rosa, I've asked Rico to arrange for our wedding photographer to do a photo shoot of us in the house. It will be fitting timing, as we're just a week away from our 3-year wedding anniversary. The house is still on the market, so it still feels like it's "ours" and I'm hoping to be able to get some closure.


Marcia (123 blog) said...

Thank you for sharing the story!

I am also sad but it's always good to simplify :) I love the idea of a photoshoot in the house to give her a good sendoff :)

Hannah McLane said...

Wow Ali, I love you so much. And you are an incredible writer. I have actually been feeling this exact same vibe - and getting fairly upset about it - for the past week. I think I have only begun to come to terms with dreams and visions changing. I am looking at buying a house in providence, and I think what is holding me back is this vision (or visions) I have been keeping in my back pocket for so long - and perhaps exactly your plan for the pink house was one of those ideas (I was there with you, but I was playing classical guitar by your side as you sketched). But I think I am only beginning to understand what the choice to go to medical school actually means. For one, it means no "real" traveling until I am 35... And at that point, am I still the backpacker/adventurer that I envision, or am I then the almost-40-year-old trying to justify not setting up a nice medical career to play out what I had seen as a perfect life 15 years ago? Am I going to be one of those physicians that I criticize so much for traveling somewhere for a few weeks and telling stories when I get home about how much of an impact I made? I am not sure, but I think you made the right choice. I still envision you in my future, and I will be playing guitar (or doing scalp acupunture on a stroke patient) next to you, and you can make jewelry instead of sketching the pink house. And maybe we have a couple men by our sides too, and a few babies running around. Same same, right? (just a teeny tiny bit different). Just maybe in a location we haven't even been to yet, who knows. So, point is, I love you, and I agree (and encourage) looking to the future, not the past, dream. Things change, and we are making the choices to encourage that shift. We just have to own those choices more. Thanks for helping me do that a little more with your story. Kiss kiss honey.

Ali la Loca said...

~Marcia - Of course you love simplifying! :) I do, too. It's just gut-wrenching sometimes to do it on a grand scale and let go of things you consider essential to your being, but really are just pieces of property.

~Hannah - Ditto a hundred times over. We are both on very focused paths right now, and it is only natural that our priorities and goals will shift. I am convinced we will have the lives we envision and desire, looking forward and not back. We will be together with the guitar and the jewelry and the men and the kiddos. It's only the details that still need to fall into place. Love you so much, honey. Thanks for this.

Safiya Outlines said...

I think it's a lovely idea to have to some photos taken to say goodbye. Goodness, I feel sad you're selling it and I've never been there! That's the power of your writing :)