Yesterday I traveled to the Pennsylvania countryside to visit some extended family. In the early seventies Mayrose met and married the American ambassador to Sri Lanka, who brought her home to his estate in Pennsylvania. Her two daughters from a previous marriage both live on the same property, but in different houses. When I was younger and lived in Massachusetts my family visited Mayrose a good amount, and I have very fond memories of the house and the people who inhabit it.

Things have changed on Grubbs Mill Road. Robert died in 2002, leaving Mayrose to mourn him in their massive home. She also stopped smoking recently, which means that the image I have of her perched on a stool in the kitchen, blowing smoke rings and looking glamorous while telling me about the dresses she wore to White House balls is slowly fading. The stories she tells now underscore the deep sadness she feels with Robert gone. M. Night Shyamalan has bought up all the surrounding property (lulz). Cynthia, the younger of the daughters, no longer owns huge Great Danes but instead has been raising about a dozen alpacas that occupy the barn that was built in the late 1600s.

Then again, some things are the same. Robert's library is still to die for. Mayrose, Ingrid, and Cynthia still lead the most drama-filled lives of anyone I know, in spite of being fairly reclusive. They will still heap praise on my "fair" skin while bemoaning the fact that I grow darker by the day (a sad fate for all non-Caucasians; every Sri Lankan woman I know who is not my mother scolds me for "squandering" my "good looks" by not protecting my skin from the sun). The garden smells the same way it did a decade ago.

Nothing feels more familiar than curling up in Robert's leather armchair with a dusty copy of some conservative treatise on the rise of Trotskyism in Sri Lanka in the 1950s while pappadum is being fried downstairs--though now I'm allowed to my own bottle of wine.

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