In a bizarre, this-could-only-happen-in-a-small-town, alignment-of-the-stars circumstance, I had Thanksgiving Dinner in my old home.
The heart-pulls that began upon walking in the door have grown from stirrings, to fluttering, to poundings. So many sentiments bubbled their way to the surface – a mixed batch of them ranging from sad to tender to angry to relief.
I was actually caught a bit off guard. When N bought the house from us and I visited her, it was fun that it had been my house, but it was hers. Not enough time had gone by for me to develop any honest nostalgia.
But now I have.
We lived there for 10 years.
It was our first home together.
Our children were born there.
We gutted the house and completely rebuilt it.
We lived in a coal-coated construction zone for a year.
I let go of my career in that home to become a mother.
My best friend spent more hours than could ever be counted there.
She lived across the street.
We shuffled our children back and forth at least 10 times a day for almost 10 years.
My children were potty-trained in that back yard.
They learned the word, “Cat Hole.”
I grew my first vegetables ever in the back yard.
Not near the cat holes.
My precious dog Molly is buried there. Bruce the Wonder Cat sat on Molly’s grave and howled for days.
Reggie the sweet but not-so-intelligent cat is also buried there.
In a cat hole.
Charles Lindbergh sat in the living room.
Before we ever did.
It’s where I met Don – his house, his home; we’re still friends.
My final memories of Emily Sue before she couldn’t handle life any more happened there.
Bowen used to bang his forehead on the floor in the hallway when he was angry.
I’d gleefully forgotten that.
Snowball, the pig we found in the snow, lived for 24 hours in the bathroom, bit me, and then peed so much that it poured over the threshold into the living room. He quickly became bacon.
I brought Sally Sue the Rez Dog home to that house and she loved us for many years.
That home is where 3-year-old Everett discovered the genius of Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire.
The cracks in the bathroom sink started appearing at the same time as the cracks in my marriage.
The cubbies in the boys’ closet where E used to hide all of the items he pilfered from Kate. The very same items that, once discovered, convinced me that my child was a sociopath.
And the closet; I painted a huge mural on their closet: an under-the-ocean scene complete with seaweed, angelfish, crabs, and a spectacular octopus.
And that’s what hit me behind the knees last night; I walked past the bedroom and saw the relief of an angel fish peeking through the blue paint that had been used, rather unsuccessfully, to cover said mural.
My breath caught in my chest and my eyes filled with tears.
I thought, “I had so much hope in my life, I had the energy and enough belief in happily ever after that every brush stroke filled me with joy – an unrealistic joy that never could have lasted.”
But what a sweet feeling that was then.
Natalie repainted a lot of the house, and her colors remain, so I had a moment of feeling like I was in her living room – which I would love to be.
But the pantry is still the same red that I painted it in a moment of inspiration once when my ex-husband was traveling.
And for the next 7 years, every argument we had (which was many) always got to the point of, “And then, there’s the orange wall…”
Actually it’s cayenne.
Plane Crash Tim sat in the kitchen while we cried over his broken body and broken heart.
Plane Crash Tim carried Everett around the house and yard in a 5-gallon bucket.
One day I said, “I am no longer going to say that I want to be a writer, I am going to be a writer.”
Next door lived Laura and her oxygen tank, who, bless her heart, was convinced that my boys were girls until the day they lifted up their dresses to show her what was really underneath. Then they ran over her O2 tubes with their bikes because she loved the rush.
I scanned the room for some of the little details I didn’t remember: the metal front window that we always said we’d replace, the windows in the boys’ room that were painted shut, the beautiful kitchen shelves made with such care, the turquoise counter tops that match the ones in the Bakery (we had leftovers), the light fixtures over which I agonized because I grew up in a house of lamps, not sconces.
There is still a door to nowhere in the Master Bedroom, although someone did add a door to the minuscule Master Bath.
Oh, that bathroom – my great escape. The hours that I spent sitting on the closed toilet seat just to get some space are innumerable.
It was in that refuge that I realized I was suicidal and needed help.
It was also in that refuge that I decided I liked my children but not my husband.
It was from that house that we watched the blossoming romance between Penny and Timothy next door at the upholstery shop.
That house saw a lot of parties during those 10 years, none of which we attended.
And then there was Mike. The other man in my life – my second husband.
Mike lived with us; he built us a deck, insulated our home, took care of pregnant me, watched movies, went shopping and encouraged me to write.
We shopped at Hogan’s in Durango because they wrapped Carhartts in brown butcher paper with a string.
He quelled my new-mother insecurities, sitting up late on the kitchen floor devising witty comebacks to the snarky criticisms I received from less-humble mommies.
We left that house, followed Mike to his new life in Alaska, he died, we came back to embrace Mancos as home and recommitted to our marriage.
Standing on Mike’s Deck last night made me think for a moment that he was right inside.
There was such sweetness in that home. And so much sadness too. I’ve been so absorbed in loving my children as almost-adults that I lost touch with them as small children – children who I adored. It was love filled with little arms around my neck.
As I left, I realized that I lived there before I was bitter, jaded, and cynical. Before my world collapsed. Before I rose from the depths to become the happy, grateful person I am now.
And as I walked away from the house, possibly for the last time ever, I thought, “Why the hell hasn’t anyone ever put a front door on that place?”
Suzanne Strazza writes from Mancos, Colo.