Creative Nonfiction by Aarron Sholar

The pole erected, the backboard and rim in place. The three of us children gather around, moving quickly as the cement threatens to set and solidify. We have little toothpicks, our dad watching over us as we slide the wood through the wet cement. We finally have our own basketball hoop, just like our old neighbors. Our home becomes more ours. We all carefully carve our initials into the hoop’s cement base— TJS, ABS, TMS, Mom, Dad. We are a family in this cement, in this driveway, in this house. Our family is now here forever in my young eyes. Our initials can never be removed from the cement, and so our family can never be removed from this home.

Yet I knew this day would come since I was young—I’d joke with my parents about buying the house off of them when they retire and no longer need all the room. Knowing that the house estimates at about $700,000 today, I definitely can’t afford it, so I have to settle with a remembrance in writing. If only the house still cost as much as it did in 1994—$200,000. If this house still cost that much, I could fill it with a second generation.

This home was my America. At eighteen months old, I arrived at this almond and green home with two new parents after they adopted me from Novosibirsk, Russia. I imagine I toddled into the home, which was fresh out of the mid-nineties. The square kitchen had white appliances, hardwood floors and even a built-in desk. Years later, after watching Frosty the Snowman on VHS, I’d pretend I was the train station clerk, and I’d mess with irrelevant receipts and mumble just like in the movie. The countertops weren’t granite then, just white plastic with rough edges. Maybe my newly-American legs carried me all around that house—to the gray couches that eventually were moved to the basement to make way for the newer, green ones; across the living room carpet, now wood; into the basement that was practically constructed by my dad; into my first bedroom, which sat at the back right corner of the house, furnished with teak-colored children’s furniture. I got my own bed, dresser and bookshelf.

Every house holds a history, but this home didn’t until we created the history ourselves—my parents signed off on the house before it was finished being built. We are all this house knows. Us, and our cries of joy, disgust and sadness, filled the home for 30 years. What will happen when we are taken from the home? Will the home cry too? Will it long for this family who gave it life? If the next owners change the home, will the ripping up of the stained basement carpet be painful? What if they swap out the basement tile with something more modern? Where will the little white tiles with pink flowers go?

My mom tells me to start thinking about what stuff from the house I want to keep—turns out all of it is not an acceptable answer. But I want to keep the house. I want to keep the house because my dad sent me into the powder room when I was little as he waited outside with a toy—a gasoline truck that had the face of a tiger with orange and black stripes continuing down the tank. The truck was a prize for successfully using the grown-up bathroom. When I emerged from the bathroom and showed him that I had accomplished my goal, the tiger was mine. That tiger is still in the house, but for how much longer?

Soon, my bedroom is moved to the front right of the house. This is because another child now also calls this home America. My little sister. We share this front room—the house gains more history; like the time a family cat trapped us in my little sister’s crib. We were in the crib, playing, as we were both small enough to fit in there at once. The cat, an orange-striped tabby with some white, named Camille, sashayed in. She sat herself halfway between the crib and the door. Camille was named after a hurricane, very appropriately, because she wreaked havoc on this home and this family. None of us could get within five feet of her. The two of us in the crib pointed at the door and told her to leave, but like a typical cat, she didn’t listen. We began to yell for our mom. We were determined to survive this ordeal. Mom came into the room and shooed Camille away without a problem, took us from the crib, and we went on with our day.

When the home is cleared out for showings and the realtor brings potential buyers through, the cat will not be mentioned. The new family will hear about the renovations that improved the house, but they won’t hear about the kind Russian construction guy who added windows to the family room and swapped out the carpet for hardwood. The man cut out little squares on either side of the fireplace where the new windows would go, to bring in more light, my mom said. I’d sit on the carpet, watching him work. We’d talk, though I don’t remember what about. Did we speak Russian to each other? Did he know I too was Russian? Did he know this home he was working on is two-fifths Russian?

When a new family takes up the house, it will no longer be Russian. It will no longer be my home. How am I to call home once my parents move, when the number has changed from a Maryland to a Florida one? How am I supposed to send mail when I no longer have the address memorized? How am I supposed to visit home when the routes through town are no longer ingrained in me, like muscle memory?

How can I say goodbye to this home that still offers me a warm embrace every time I visit? The home embraced me as a child. It still does. One Christmas, I’d told my dad that I was bored, despite the plentiful amount of toys I’d just received. Off I was sent to my room to spend a few hours of Christmas alone, while everyone else was downstairs mingling and playing. It was just me and the house. We spoke, and the house told me about itself. The house told me that it does indeed eat my video games, causing them to disappear into the Maryland ether. To this day, I’ve never found my original copy of Mario Kart Double Dash (the one with the demo disc included) or Kirby Air Ride. The house also told me everything it had seen and will see. The house saw my arrival, every Thomas the Tank Engine playset I’d set up and tore down in the basement, the time my siblings and I begged my dad for a basketball hoop, and so one was installed. Will this new family keep the basketball hoop? Will they remove it? The hoop has been a constant presence in my life since it was cemented into place. When the pipe burst in the driveway, the hoop was constant. When a new drain was put in by the garage to reduce flooding, the hoop was constant. When my dad taught me to mow the front lawn for the first time, the hoop was constant. How can I ever have a home again without these constants?

The house was a constant my entire life. After school, I went home. After playing at friends’ houses, I went home. After basketball practice, I went home. After therapy, I went home. After my first injection of testosterone, I went home. After my double mastectomy, I went home. During my first winter break while in graduate school, I went home. When I have a boyfriend, I bring him home.

What will it be like to bring my boyfriend to my parents’ new home? The route the plane takes will be different. The town will be different. The new house will look different. It will be inside a quaint retirement community, only one level and will be the perfect size for the two of them. My parents have served their time in this home, and they need to leave it so another set of parents can serve their time too. A few years ago, my neighbors across the street moved out of their home, an exact copy of ours but with a different color scheme. Their children were also adults, also moved out, and now the house was too big for the couple. When they moved out, a younger family moved in. With them, they brought two children, yard decorations, and not one but two Teslas. The family brought in their own histories, maybe from the house they lived in before. The house across the street is abundant with history. The house across the street will be their constant, it will talk to the new family. The house across the street is their home now.

Where is home now when the place I’ve always known as home is no longer there for me? When the place that witnessed my first twenty-six years of life becomes a stranger? You always have a home, my dad tells me. But next year, this home will not be my home. Where will my home be when my original American home is no longer mine? My parents’ new home will know none of my history, will not know me. Can this new Florida house be a home when it holds none of my history? How can this house be a home when it is not my home?

When Mom asks what I want to take from the house, I think about all the items. In my mind, I say goodbye to the stuff—the big pieces of furniture I know I won’t be able to keep, the stuff I know I don’t need to keep and don’t want to keep, but still value, the stuff I’ve forgotten is even still in the house. I say goodbye to the handmade playset in the backyard and to the handmade shed underneath the handmade deck underneath the handmade awning. My mom decides to keep a snippet of the dinosaur wallpaper from the room where both my brother and I lived at different times. I made my own history in that room and it remembers me. As for the house, I say goodbye. Goodbye to the home that shared my family’s history. But the history, I take that with me. That is the item I choose to keep.

Aarron Sholar

Aarron Sholar’s essays have been nominated for The Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. His debut memoir, The Body of a Frog: A Memoir on Self-Loathing, Self-Love, and Transgender Pregnancy, is forthcoming from Atmosphere Press. He holds an MFA from MSU, Mankato and a BA from Salisbury University. He serves as the Prose Editor for Beaver Magazine. He can be found on Twitter/X at @aarron_sholar.