By Abby Huckelbury
It’s gone. It is finally gone. The weight has been lifted and this insufferable place no longer consumes our lives. She is completely free of this anchor. This burden that has weighed her down for over 50 years. Nothing is left of that place. The floors are bear, the rooms empty, every inch cleared. All that remains is the dirt and a memory of how it used to be.
Maybe the next family will bring happy memories. They can fill the rooms with joy and laughter once again. They can keep it clean. They can care for that house. They can make it a home again.
From the street it appeared quaint. A fresh muted green coated the old wood above the one door garage and around the front windows. The trim around the roof appeared like waves drawn by a child, giving the house whimsy. The black painted mailbox cemented into an old rusty milk can gave it character.
But outside simply masked the plethora of shit looming inside. Fabric scaled the walls floor to ceiling, leaving no room to maneuver around the stacks for fear of knocking any over. Walmart sacks smothered where her family once ate. Cardboard boxes blanketed hard-blue carpet where the grandkids used to make palettes to sleep. No room was left to do anything except stand and gawk at what had piled up since the last visit.
It wasn’t always that way.
In a house full of useless things, hunting for toys was a challenge. But with that challenge came adventure. There was so much to discover and rummaging through drawers unveiled secrets. Long forgotten in a past life. Under all of the junk, somewhere lay the old home. Where a husband and wife once raised three daughters. Where grandchildren once opened their Christmas presents. Where the family once could sit on the couch.
Buried beneath the clutter, waiting to be revealed within the top drawer of the old vanity in the back bedroom, were the dog tags of her fallen soldier. Beneath all of the fabric and ribbon, jewelry from her wedding. Beneath all of the sacks and newspapers, pictures from her daughters’ childhood. Within the drawers, the memories of a home that was now lost in that house.
She was lost and alone and so she surrounded herself with things. In effect, she nested. The more she nested the more visits just became trips to clean. There was no longer time to run down the hall, climb on top of the great wall of fabric, grab the tattered blue and tan Yahtzee box and crowd four people around a little wooden tray. There was no time to do anything but clean.
Now, my mind cluttered with these memories, all there is to do in life is clean. To make sure things are put back exactly where they came from because you don’t want to get lost. You don’t want to lose your home.
The junk drawer is more than just a space to shove things before the house keeper comes. It has meaning. As well as the three other drawers just like it. And that closet, and that game room and that desk. Things must be dealt with now before it’s just a house.
Her youngest daughter loved that home. In emptying it, she has rescued pieces to put in her own home. Though the front door, just to the left where a dining room would be, is a room full of her childhood. The antique pink couch where her grandmother sat. The piano where she learned to play Beethoven, the same one where she taught her own daughter to play. The paintings her sister made, once hung above the couch in her living room.
The things that made the cluttered house a home now live on in the daughters’ homes. The colorful pins in a shadowbox on the middle sister’s wall. The vanity repainted by the oldest granddaughter. Even the red and pink decorative tin box found by the second oldest granddaughter. It now holds a white lace garter with a light blue bow, crocheted by her great great grandmother, awaiting her wedding day.
Although these parts of the home remain, two truths still stand.
The house is gone.
And she’s finally free.
Wandering through the empty rooms, taking one last glance, there were mixed feelings. The youngest daughter was reminiscing, pointing out where every scratch and crack came from. She will miss this house because she remembers her home. But as the granddaughter lingers throughout the deserted rooms, hearing the sounds of her flip flops stick to the brown rectangular tile, she can’t help but feel relief. As they kick the rock out if the way to close the screen door and leave the house forever, tears fell over the home lost and the house left behind.