The Old House
A Step Into The Past
My boys were only toddlers at the time, Mom was still alive and had more energy than she knew what to do with it. The four of us were standing in an empty kitchen, one that once held the contents of all the meals fed to me throughout my youth. The old appliances had already been removed from the premises, the table and chairs had found a new home in someone else's kitchen. Mom and I stood there in the now empty space that was once the hub of our everyday life. She looked at me and began to giggle, "I found something in your old room, would you like to see it?"
She had packed up all the remains I'd left behind several years before, the unnecessary belongings which didn't have a place in my life as a newly married woman. I followed her into my old bedroom and watched closely as she opened the bi-fold closet doors that held the two and a half foot long cylinder made from lightweight cardboard. She looked at me again, giggling as she held it in her hand, "Here, you open it." she said. I knew exactly what was in it. I'd put it there years before, only taking it out periodically to take another glimpse of it from time to time. I had placed it on the top shelf of my closet, knowing it was in a safe place where no one would ever see it or remove it or even know it existed.
I began to laugh out loud, and with a genuine burst of enthusiasm, I removed the plastic cover from the end, and lightly shook the cylinder as the rolled up contents came sliding out. I placed the empty cylinder on the bare floor of my old room and unrolled the paper of a life-size poster of my yesteryear boyfriend, one of whom I would never forget, one of whom I could never forget. There he was, bigger than life standing by a tree in his brand new burgundy corduroys and a tan sweater. It was his graduation picture. I'd had it blown up into the life-size poster even after we no longer dated, as I said, I could never forget him. It hung on the back of my bedroom door for only a short time. Seeing it just made the reality of losing him too hard to bear. I finally realized it was too depressing to look at him each night before I went to bed, and each morning when I opened my eyes. So reluctantly, I'd placed it carefully into the cardboard cylinder and planted it on the top shelf of my bedroom closet. Whenever I felt the urge to look him in the eye, I would take a quick glance, then put it safely back into its undisturbed resting spot.
For many years that poster took up residence of the top shelf, hiding from the rest of the household. Jokingly, my mom asked me if I'd like to bring it home and hang it on the bedroom door that my new husband and I shared together. After a few minutes of reliving memories, Mom and I decided the poster had lived out it's life, and had to be thrown into the waste pile with several other priceless items that I'd kept for sentimental reasons. Along with the poster, all the letters I'd ever received from him also made it to the incinerator, never to be read again. I tried to be nonchalant about it, but in my heart, I was aching, hanging on to a memory that I knew I could never let go of.
And He Said,"I'll Unlock The Door."
I'd been out to visit my dad, and the early afternoon had only begun. Dad was tired, he didn't need, nor did he want any company at the time. I politely excused myself and crawled back into my little car with the intention of heading back to my sisters house to relax alone for the remainder of the day. As I left his driveway, I had the desire to go drive down the old State Park road. I hadn't been there for several years, and thought maybe I could sneak in to take a picture of the Chippewa Lookout, one of my most favorite contemplating spots on earth. I drove into the park and relived the days of my youth as I remembered riding my ten-speed bike down the same road. I recalled walking on the road after being dropped off from the late bus after basketball and volleyball practice throughout the school year. I reminisced driving down the same road as a young sixteen year old just after I'd earned my drivers license...
I pulled up in front of the Contact Station, wishing the sign read closed, but it didn't. It was open and I was forced to stop. I parked my car along side of the little building, and walked in to buy my permit to enter the State Park which had once been my home. "Hello, ah, ya know," as I pointed across my shoulder, "I used to live in the house just across the road there." " Yes, I know, you're Winfield and Sandy's daughter. I remember." We chatted for a few minutes, and then he told me that he and his wife had moved out of the residence and had purchased their own home in town a couple years before. "If you'd like, I can unlock the door, and you're free to take a look inside the house you grew up in." Excited as a kid on Christmas morning, I jumped at the chance to walk through the old house. I hadn't been inside since the day Mom had shown me the poster in my old bedroom. In the back of my mind, I wanted to keep that memory safe, uninterrupted and put to bed inside my mind as the last time I was in the house. However, the desire to take another peek was too enticing, I had to take advantage.
He opened the door, and in an instant memories flooded my mind of that day Mom and I stood there as my young boys trotted around Grandma's empty house. I looked around, and in my mind I heard the telephone ringing, I heard the electric frying pan sizzling the roast beef, as Mom was searing it before it would simmer on top of the stove for the better part of the afternoon. I recalled the night my sister had made a giant batch of caramel corn. She was in the process of placeing it outside on the back deck to cool in the mid winter evening when she lost hold of the container and spilled in onto the floor, partially inside, partially outside. The remains of trying to salvage what she could had the texture of grainy sand...we didn't eat it. Eventually, I made my way into my old bedroom, and opened the closet door. It was then that I was reminded of a time when my room was painted cannery yellow, as the walls inside the closet were so willing to make me reminisce the color it still held behind the worn and battered, dirty cob webbed sheetrock. I stood there and thought of all the different ways I had arraigned my old bedroom, something I did on a monthy basis. Remembering then, how I'd placed the headboard of my bed right in front of the window at one time. It was difficult to open the window, and needless to say, before too long, I rearranged it once more.
I made my way down into the basement and witnessed the tattered and worn out white tile on the floor. Some tiles had definitely seen their better days as they had lost a significant portion of mass, showing the concrete beneath. In my mind I saw the layout of the room with all it's furniture. I reminisced of my sister and I making plaster of paris plaques while listening to the local radio station playing from the stand alone piece of furniture stereo cabinet. I saw us sitting on the floor playing gnip gnop, a loud hands-on game from Hasbro, or maybe it was Matel, and I remembered playing with my barbie dolls which my big brother would torture right in front of my eyes...just to make me mad. I saw the picture in my mind of me and my old boyfriend as we used to snuggle up on the couch for hours on a Saturday night. I walked through the dingy, dank laundry room, and looked for the markings on the wall near the doorway where we kept track of our individual growth charts. I looked hard, yet I couldn't see any sign of any lines marked with our names in blue ink-pen anymore. I turned on the light, although the bulb was burnt out, and refused to shed any kind of hope on the situation.
I walked through the house with a feeling of sadness from time gone by. I felt an overwhelming emotion of emptiness with the loss of my mother, my youth, my roots, and my old boyfriend... The house that was once alive with so much character and so much life, was now only storing the remains of unwanted boxes. The boxes which held the contents of old unimportant things that the most recent inhabitants had left behind among the dead flies and droppings from uninvited rodents who likely were the only living inhabitants still residing in the walls and rafters. Now only the thoughts live inside my mind, the house was simply the vessel that kept our family safe from mother nature. I live in the past, because I have so many wonderful memories of my life before the eating disorder took over my psyche...
Have I come full circle? Have I finally come to realize the importance of living my life without the learned behavior of an eating disorder? I want to say that yes, I've come full circle, yet if I'm wrong, and my life continues to become unmanageable once more, then I've written a lie. I must believe in my strength to overcome the destructive behaviors I have carried with me throughout my life. When I look back at the simpler times, it makes me happy, even in spite of everything I've lost along the way. My past is my future, my future is my past...I am who I am and I am whatever I make of me.
Long ago, I was in the early stages of my teens when I'd spend the night at a good friends house in town. She lived with her father and her stepmother in a beautiful white rambler with a patio in the back yard that wrapped itself around a giant inground swimming pool. My friend had a slumber party, and we all went skinny dipping at two o'clock in the morning hoping none of the neighbors were able to see through the privacy fence as we glided through the crystal clear water. I always wished my mom and dad owned that house, or better yet, one day maybe I could own it myself.
In my adult life, I have always been content and most satisfied, yet I have always delt with an eating disorder which has haunted me since the days of my early Freshman year in Jr. High School. In reality, I was never actually happy with anything in my life because of the secret relationship I shared with the eating disorder. I was forever trying to run away from the destructive behaviors, doing my best to hide it under the rug, so to say. As time continued to tic away, I guess I had settled for the fact that the eating disorder behaviors I shared only with myself, were going to follow me for the rest of my life if I wanted them to or not.
In the recent past, I talked with that old boyfriend. He disrupted my life as I never knew it would be possible, bringing back old memories and stirring the pot which had been simmering for years, much like Moms roast beef in the electric frying pan. Since then, many things have changed in my world. My life has come full circle as I have now been through months of treatment for a lifelong eating disorder, and have also ended my marriage. I've proceeded to purchase the home once inhabited by that good friend from long ago. The house has lost almost all of it's luster, whereas, rather than brought back to life, the pool should really be filled in. However, that's not what is going to happen. Unlike the home I grew up in, this home has been found by someone willing to give it the TLC it's been waiting for, it's simply a diamond in the rough...and it's mine... There is a one-hundred percent chance that this house can see it's beauty once more, and I'm able to help it along. I have another chapter waiting in the midst, and in good time, it will be written...
Full circle, one step at a time, I am making my dreams come true.