So ironic that this house of my daddy’s I now live in is more like the “House that Built me” than any other place I lived growing up…even though I didn’t move here til I was 18. My daughter, Lexi loved this song, but she felt it about our house that her dad took from us “for our own good”. And regardless of where my children go or whom they choose to love, this house is the only one we have left that “built us”.
He stole that one because he “felt it best” along with all my personal memorabilia…so, we have this one…my dad’s…
I find myself frequently asking for signs… I’ve no clue what that even means, but I ask hourly. I don’t believe in anything so much anymore, so I don’t even know what I’m asking to send me a sign…
I’m still here. I have all the ingredients to escape, still feel confident my absence might be best, no one has stepped up to say Oh please don’t, my mind hasn’t changed (if anything it’s more determined and decided)… Today, I contacted a realtor about listing my dad’s house…this beloved, ancient manor of memories… and immediately after contacting the realtor, the song that most reminds me of my dad started playing on the radio. It’s a very old song, so I was surprised to hear it play. And I ask myself, is that my sign? If it is, is it a sign of yes or a sign of NO DON’T DO IT? I wouldn’t know.
I have no other safe places. I belong no where. I guess I never have. I only belonged wherever my dad was or where my children were. None exist anymore for me, so it’s this house. This house, where my dad helped me learn to walk again at 26, where both my daughters learned to walk for the first time, the place of so many Thanksgivings, so many birthdays, Christmases, family dinners, family giggles… The only place I ever felt a sigh of relief when I walked in the door, knowing I was safe, knowing I was loved, knowing everything would be always ok no matter how bad it seemed….a real life refuge.
I didn’t actually grow up here. Although, I sort of did. My daddy bought this house when I was 18. My first boyfriend beat me here several times. Two primary doors were replaced by him from when he busted them down. I moved away to live with my aunt awhile to escape him and came back to be with my real first love/best friend. And there are so many wonderful memories here of how he loved me, how he was my best friend ever. There’s an ancient father’s day card, tucked away in a drawer, that he gave to my dad, so sure he was that he and I would be married. He and my dad got along very well, except for my endless long distance phone calls to him when he went away to college in Chicago. Long distance! It’s such a foreign concept now. In hindsight, I feel so badly for my dad. It was actually cheaper to drive to Chicago to see him than those 4 hour long distance phone calls were!
My dad had every right to be furious, every right to not even allow me to use the(his!) phone after countless outrageous phone bills I couldn’t pay for! He did get mad…often…but he never once beat me or shamed me or punished me or kicked me out for being so childishly selfish.
Every single thing inside this house has meaning to me. The chips in the paint over the hall? Those are from the bouncy swing we got for Lexi when she was only 4 months old. Oh, and how she’d bounce! Bounce and shriek with laughter… She was the center of the world right then! Then, Savannah came and I was so handicapped that I couldn’t hold her as much as I did Lexi… but we had the bouncy swing and she’d shriek with joy. And even as I’d watch her, single handicapped mother of two amazing girls, worrying about what our life would be; worried about what they’d need and if I could provide it always, my dad would just laugh watching her bounce and I didn’t know what our lives would be, but I knew it would be okay whatever it was, so I’d laugh with them too, no matter the depth of my uncertainty and fear.
Anyway, that’s why the center of that entryway has some chipped paint that was never repainted. In the tiny drawer of the library? There’s a child’s tiny notepad where my dad must have been helping Savannah when she was learning to write and Savannah first wrote the word “Mommy” and her own beautiful name.
In those fun little drawers, there’s also the first portable Britney Spears playin’ CD players my dad got for my kids when they wanted them but I couldn’t afford to buy them. One was red and one was yellow. The yellow one is in there, haphazardly left behind at some point when my daughters transitioned to iPod music. Those fun sized drawers hold baby sized hair ties and barrettes, some fairy tale storybooks, some 25 cent bubblegum machine jewelry that made their faces light up, tiny little child-sized sparkly nail polishes… they are a virtual nostalgic treasure chest!
A million teeny-tiny worthless, priceless little whatnots that no one on the planet would think a thing of throwing in the trash, but which flood my heart with happy, useless, hurtful memories.
So much nothing that means so much. I bought this house when my dad died. I confess it was only because of my dad’s memory and hoping that my children might someday feel happy that it was still in our family, holding all those memories of their childhood and their papa. They have no need for nostalgia, nor memories… so I really just wasted the money wishing on a star, hoping to preserve a million happy memories that my children have committed to forgetting.
I still feel like this is my refuge, even while the memories simultaneously refresh my hope and destroy it.