“It all happened so fast at the end,” says Gerry, as we stand in what will, if all goes according to plan, be Andrew’s room for the rest of his life. “We were going to paint the room your favorite color. What is your favorite color? There wasn’t even time to ask you!”
A quick glance around reveals the answer. “Yellow,” I speak for Andrew. “Pale yellow.” If it hadn’t been his favorite before, it certainly is now: this is his room at L’Arche, and for the first time in his life he will live at a different address—in a different state, even—than his parents.
I shift my powers of observation, such as they are, into grinding gear, and rev them up mercilessly. First impressions, I remind myself, are important. The room strikes me instantly as perfect. A window in the eaves swings open to reveal a splendidly mossy roof, (how poetic, awfully glad we’re not responsible for the upkeep,) and a view of the lively street below—so many people walking so many dogs! You can tell it’s an old neighborhood by the cars lining the streets—automobiles are not destined to disappear into garages for another decade or three—as well as by the trees: great and small, conifers and broadleaves, straight and gnarled, an entirely disproportionate number of them in intoxicating bloom. This is May in Seattle, after all, and the air is heavy with the scent of blossoms.
But the pièce de résistance comes when I turn back into the room, and it is straight out of John Cleese’s Fawlty Towers: two carpeted steps about three feet wide leading to a door roughly two feet above floor level, which opens onto . . . (drumroll . . .) THE CLOSET!!!!! Lots of coat hangers and oodles of space, I notice, as well as a nifty spot to hang out in; there is also a bookcase, a chest of drawers. We’ll have to find him a desk . . . An unexpectedly personal touch from the previous occupant: a mobile of balsa wood aeroplanes whose gunmetal grey strikes a vivid contrast with the yellow walls.
And now we’re at that awkward moment where Gerry is inviting us for dinner (they take food very seriously at every L’Arche home we’ve been to) and Andrew is telling us loud and clear, in unmistakable body language, that it’s cool, he really doesn’t need us to hang around, in fact, Mom and Dad, Will You Please Go Now?
And so, just like that, it’s over.
We embarrass him with one more hug.