I often find myself thinking of things in terms of them happening either before my mother died, or after she died. Dec. 14, 2019 is the great divider date.
Before she passed, I was living with her in Brasilia, Brazil, on a beautiful chacara of 2.7 acres, which had pine trees, mango and lemon trees, and our own avocado trees. The ipes we had, a tree native to the Cerrado region of Brazil, would explode into hues of purple and lilac every year, a sight to behold set against the deep blue sky of Brasilia.
Afterwards, I found myself in Houston, Texas, living in a newly built house on a tiny plot of land, with a miniscule backyard which my dogs use for their necessities. Since I don’t have a caretaker like we had in Brazil, I had to hire a company called Scoop Patrol, which comes in twice a week to pick up my pooches’ poop, and spray deodorant on the lawn. Only in America could you find such a service!
My cat Chiquinho, who used to roam the chacara far and wide, was initially afraid to go out into my Texan backyard, the sounds of nearby cars and trains scaring him. He now goes out for very short visits and comes back in quickly. In contrast, the Texas kitties that I adopted from my street, love playing in the backyard, Henry and Lolo frolicking in the grass and climbing up the fence.
On a visit to Brasilia last year, I drove by the chacara with my friend Marcos to see what had become of it and was shocked by what I saw. The two lawyers and their spouses who bought the chacara from me had promised that they would not chop down too many of the trees, and were going to build houses both for their law office and to live in.(In a weird Brazilian exception, lawyers may have their offices in the otherwise residential Lago Sul.) That had reassured me a little at the time, but as some friends had warned me, buyers seldom stick to their promises of not altering a property too much.
This is what I saw peering in from the street: My mother’s house had been leveled, but my small house was still standing. More shocking were all the missing pine trees that had lined the driveway. The fishpond was filled in with dirt as was the swimming pool. To add insult to injury, they had ripped out the hedge that lined the whole side of the chacara that ran along the street. It was a devastation that I never wanted to have seen.
Luckily, I had donated all of mother’s beloved Koi fish that were in her pond to the British Embassy before I moved out.
I had imagined some changes, and for new houses to have been built. But this razed and utter abandon was heartbreaking. Maybe I shouldn’t have sold it, I thought to myself. Indeed, my mother had quipped that I would probably sell it as soon as she died.
I sold the property as it had too many memories of my mother and father, and the house was having more and more problems, that were becoming troublesome to repair.
Selling the chacara was relatively easy, getting my things actually moved to Houston, was another never-ending story. The moving company came and packed up the clothes, books, papers, paintings, dishes and dresser that I was taking with me in May 2021. They promised my shipment would leave Brazil in June. I waited and waited, and nothing. In September 2021 they claimed they couldn’t find space on a ship for my container. Then they said they would have to charge me the same amount of US$7,500 that I had already paid them in advance to move my things door to door! They claimed increased costs caused by the pandemic and rocketing shipping costs. I felt that I was being extorted. I finally decided to sue them in Brazil, and eventually won the case, with the judge ordering them to ship my things as soon as possible, and to pay me moral damages.
I’m still waiting for my things to leave Brazil. But at least I see some light now in the tunnel of life after my mother’s death.