I am sneezing and wheezing again as I pull out old Nancy Drew volumes from the shelves and plunk them into a musty cardboard box.
Why didn’t I bring my asthma inhaler?
The dust hangs heavily all around me, dust that has lain here for decades. It was not how I envisioned spending Easter but my mother had begged me. I squint and blink as I read titles, as much to keep the dust out of my eyes as to keep the tears at bay. There is a reason I have been avoiding it for so long.
This room used to be mine.
I grew up here, shed more tears than I care to remember within these walls. I cried out to God so many times when I just wanted to die. There was no hope left for me here.
Please. Take me away.
There is a different bed but everything else, including the ancient fraying pastel curtains, used to be mine. Now it is called the guest room but no one has ever been brave enough to spend the night here, not since my last night in 1997, the night before I eloped.
I wanted to escape.
“We have three bathrooms but when it rains only one toilet works…” My father thinks it is funny that the toilet overflowed on a high school friend of mine. He likes to tell the story over and over again. I don’t remember it, truthfully, but why argue? He will not remember next time I come.
The walls of an ancient box are crumbling down around my old drawings. “You used to be so artistic,” my mother says wistfully as I stuff sheafs of paper into a new box. My kids might get a good laugh out of them now. They are truly awful…
No more crying. Not here. Not in this room. Not now. This is not me anymore, is it?
Old stuffed animals are still strewn about, untouched except by the unrelenting hands of time. My precious giant pink hippo that I bought from the Goodwill store with money from hours and hours of pulling weeds in the garden in 100 degree heat now has a giant hole that stuffing is pouring out of. How does that happen when you are not looking? The threads that hold you to your childhood just decay away.
“Maybe you can sew up the hole?” my mother says.
“It’s, OK. Just throw them all out…” I try to act as if I don’t care.
There are holes in the walls from pipe work done when I was a teenager. They wanted to keep the holes in case they needed more work done on the plumbing at some point, work that was never needed. I covered up the holes with posters of an F-16 fighter jet and Faberge eggs.
Plugging the holes with strength and beauty. I understand it now.
Out the window I can see the lawn hasn’t been mowed in months and the grass now stands knee high due to the early spring. My father says he is afraid to mow when there is any wind because the clippings might land in neighboring yards and upset someone. Not that anyone has ever complained about clippings. They will complain about the unsightly yard soon enough, I bet. He shouldn’t be mowing anyway, though.
Financially they are in a great place now. They could pay to have all of this fixed. Hell, they could demolish everything and build anew three times over. But they won’t. Instead, my mother complains about the lettering on her Pyrex measuring cup wearing off too soon. She has had it since I was a child.
“How much do they cost? And how long should one last, anyway, mother? Just buy a new one!”
This place is a mausoleum. When I am away I can choose to remember how I want to remember, what I want to remember. Here, the memories are forced upon me whether I want them or not.
I will not do this to my children. I will redecorate their rooms as soon as they leave for college.
I know I should visit more often but when I go, the place fills me with grief. I still want to run away, to save myself. I still want to escape that little girl’s despair. And yet…. I think the thread is unraveling bit by bit. The hold is getting weaker, I can feel it.
Someday, this place will no longer exist for me.