The house that broke me

Soon, it will be moving day. I will leave this house and I will fill another with my things, my personality, my scent and drama and troubles. Another set of walls will take silent note of the next chapter of my life and it will go on to become another few pages in the book I’ll write someday. I look around this home, and I am grateful for the sturdiness of its walls, the way they held me up through the storm of my divorce, and the way they sheltered my children as it passed. I am grateful for the windows I can look out and see the street that welcomed me back wordlessly, seamlessly into the fold again. I am grateful for the carpet, the carpet I could clean and took pride in vacuuming nearly every single day just because I had one and I could. I have been in places where the luxury of a clean floor could not be afforded. I am lucky to have a floor to clean, lucky to have the children to stain it. It is a small but significant pride that I can watch the dirt come up in the water and walk upon a clean slate again. I wonder if that’s how my father feels as he prepares to lock the door to his house one last time. The house he has called home for nearly 20 years now belongs to someone else, someone who will never know what went on behind those ugly curtains. Will he and his wife walk away with clean soles/souls? We are in different points in our lives as we take similar steps. How many hurts can I undo as I make a new home for my family? How many cries for help will lie silent in the walls we’ve now all left behind?

This new family will never know about the basement, where I stared into the fire of the woodburning stove as my father used my ass to break pieces of wood to heat the home, justifying it as fair punishment because I failed to ask permission to eat a handful of chips after school. I had stolen something from him, surely those potato chips were as precious to him as the skin on the back of my legs was to me.

They will never know about the stairs, and how I wondered what my head would look like, split open with my neck all jack-knifed from the impact of falling off the half-wall of the playroom and falling down them. They will never know how I asked for help and they told me the crazy was “all in my head.” I knew it was… that was the problem.

The next people to wash their hands in the bathroom sink will never look up and see a seven year old’s giant eyes full of tears as she wondered what she did to make her stepmother never want her own children. Maybe if she had her own kids, she would have been mean to them, instead.

The next man to stride into that barn won’t know that the last time the two girls who used to live there stood in that barn together, they each made a personal vow to get out or die trying. The next man who works in that barn will never hear the screams of a second-grader as a 2×4 connects with bare skin while her sister watches, pressing her shorts to the back of her own legs so as not to drip blood on the floor.

The next little girl who lives upstairs will never know about the afternoons spent huddled in the closet, plotting great escapes. She will never read the pages and pages of letters that the little girl before her wrote to her mommy, begging her to come take her away, written by the glow of a nightlight. She won’t know about the little pink suitcase filled with favorite things stuffed in the back of the cupboard. She won’t look out the window in the bedroom and wonder if it were far enough down to die upon impact.

The next woman who cooks in that kitchen won’t know about the collection of empty beer bottles, standing like sentinels on the countertop. Each one another bullet to each other’s heart. The next woman who makes her children’s peanut butter sandwiches in that kitchen will use jelly. Not butter. And never raspberry jelly. Because it’s a nice house when they’re not there… and that nice house deserves a nice family.

I’d almost like to apologize to the house for the years of stains we left on it. I’m sorry for every time I threatened to come back and burn you down. I’m sorry for all the times I wish you’d be struck by lightning. I’m sorry for all the times I said I couldn’t wait to bulldoze you.

I’m sorry. Because now you’re just a house, and those things don’t matter anymore. Not to you.

They’re just things, and I’m just carrying them. I had a place to set them, and that place has been reclaimed. So what do I do with them now, and how do you let it go?

Dad?

How do you let it go?

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