-- For Beattie and Eva, my Mom and Wayne.
A man who I wish very deeply I had known built a house with his hands. He died when I was an idea, not even that probably, just something that would happen later.
When I was a baby, so I was told, I sat in a seat on top of the dining room table there. My grandmother spoke to me, she said. Her mother, his wife, died when I was three months old. I'm told that she held me to her chest, Eva did. And days later, when she was gone, her daughter placed me on a table that I would later know full well -- whose plastic, wrinkly tablecloth I can feel under the hands in my mind even now, clutter of sugar bowl and ashtray and butter dish -- and talked to me.
"I told you all of my problems, baby dear," she said. "I just talked and talked, and you listened all of the time."
Where you can escape when you're four months old I don't exactly know, but clearly I have always been a good sitter on tables and listener to problems and general information.
These years later, years too after I've stepped through either door, I know every board and floor and wall and stair her father constructed. I understand their place in the world like I have an idea of what they know as mine. I know who was there and I know where they went and I know what they said.
I will never let it go, not really, even the parts that I work so hard, so consistently, to forget.
I hate it, and I'll miss it. I want it torched and I want it back and different. I want back, most of all, what it took -- what I know in my heart it will always take, because taking was what it did -- and I want to swap out where I landed in its orbit.
I hate what I can't change. I hate what I can't love. I hate my anger and my pettiness and my inability to walk through fire in a bubble.
But I loved its yard and the back corner where I could hide from what I even then knew was my potentially-defining difference. I loved that porch, even with its scary parade of visitors and loud voices. I loved the way I could see down that street, how I've always liked views. I can grab on to the peeling forest-green paint of the swing set and kick my legs and know there is onion dip waiting for me on the picnic table. I can see a German shepherd and a bedraggled poodle on the couch, and feel the Sunday sun shining on the funny papers, with no one yelling and Silly Putty on the coffee table and a cousin or two sucking down cereal in the dining room.
I can see the Christmases that weren't bad, and meaty walnuts broken in the nutcracker and Love Boat and Fantasy Island on Saturday night and banging pans on the porch on New Year's Eve.
I can see a mass of love that got confused, boards that rotted and dogs that died (and people), addictions unsecured and broken down cars and weeds that just kept growing.
I see my mother, the angel keeper of this place and its people, to whom Beattie and Eva would say "Rest, this was not how it was supposed to be, especially not for you. Rest in our love. We still see you, even now, every day. They were misguided and wrong. We'd tell them if we could that we are so, so disappointed."
I have a few houses in my heart, this one a broken down place, a double lot of hope and disappointment, of love and belief and anger and pain. I could sit on its porch and tell you all about it, really. I should have always been able to go there and do that. But instead I take mental sledgehammers to its walls. I keep trying to shut it down, because on one fine day along the line I chose that as my path of least (and yet so not least, not least at all) resistance.
And one day just before it's passed over, when the person who lives there now is gone and before the new ones take it with a hammer to the dirt, I'll drive there and pray I'm not arrested and I will clip the rose bush and I will plant it somewhere new and pray I don't kill what I take as I so frequently do.
I will do it because of this place and its not-entirely-terrible people who I came from -- especially for my uncle and my mother -- and because the hope of some kind of redemption is the only kind of foolish path I know.