A Little Self-Therapy
We saw the house on the news, surrounded by crime scene tape and sheriff’s cars. The big white house on the little country road. I used to live there. My parents had the house built next door to my grandparents’ farm (where my mom grew up) and lived there for more than 30 years. It’s the place where my sister, brothers and I grew up, the only house my youngest brother ever knew. It’s where we played catch in the yard and basketball in the driveway. It’s where we would disappear into the woods to follow trails and build stick huts. Where we rode bikes down the road and watched deer graze in the field. My parents only sold it a little over a year ago. Both my grandparents were gone, and with no one in the family to take over the farm, it made sense to sell both properties at the same time.
Now this horrible thing has happened there. Dad called to let us know before it hit the evening news, but over the next few days as the story unfolded, it became more and more gruesome. My children only know the barest details of what happened, but they know it happened where Grammy used to live. Tonight my daughter asked me if we could go to the little girl’s funeral, before including her in her nightly prayers. All I could do was hug her tight and try to choke back the tears. I cry for the life that was lost, for the face I see reflected in those of my own children and of my students. I cry for the children everywhere who do not live in a safe, loving environment. I cry for myself, for the loss of that future day when I might have knocked on the door and said, “Hi. I used to live here. Do you mind if I look around?”
I also feel guilt. I feel guilty for mourning what I have “lost” when the real tragedy is so much greater. If I’m going to be completely truthful, I probably was not going to go back and knock on that door. But the possibility has been stolen. The comfortable idea that families were still making happy memories in my house and that somewhere out there in the fuzzy future I could check in on it. There’s a song about “The House That Built Me.” But it wasn’t the house that built me, it was the home. The place where we knew we were completely safe not because of the walls, but because of the people who lived there.
I read once that you should write down the story of your house and hide it somewhere to be found by future owners. At the time I thought it was a nice idea and kind of filed it away in the back of my mind. I will do it soon for the house I share now with my husband and children. As for my childhood home, I choose to end the story in the summer of 2011, when my parents moved out.