When I sold my mama and daddys’ house and was headed for Florida, I wanted to take one last look at the house I had “grown up in” (when I wasn’t at my grandma and grandpas’ house.) I had never lived in the house I bought. My daddy bought it in the seventies after I was long gone.
A man bought the original house and was running a massage parlor out of it. I think it was a real massage parlor (as least it looked real.) It had been for sale before I bought my mama and daddys’ house. I called the real estate broker and was ready to buy it, but the broker never showed up and I had to get back to Florida. Now that I think back, it was probably for the best.
The owner was very gracious about letting me come in and look around. The first thing I saw was the staircase I hid under when mama gave me my first black eye. I could feel every emotion that I had felt fifty-five years earlier….the pain, the terror…the sense of being worthless.
I looked around the living room and told him where the piano once stood. Somebody had removed the floor to ceiling bookshelves that were behind glass doors. The room looked so small for some reason. The closet was still there and so was the fireplace but the turret had been replaced with a flat wall.
The room that used to be the kitchen was now a bedroom. The clawfoot bathtub we actually used had been painted a bright turquoise and was sitting in that room.
We went up to the attic and I remembered how I used to climb out a tiny window and hoist myself up on the roof. I would sit up there for hours…pretending that the peak of the roof was a horse. I remembered where the door to the attic had been. The attic caught on fire once and my daddy changed the entrance after that.
We went back downstairs and I told him what each room used to be. I could still picture the armoires and the lions’ paw dining room table. I remember the huge windows that rattled when the wind blew. I could still smell the dank flower pots that were brought inside when winter was setting in.
I remembered where the stove had been…the only source of heat, except for the fireplaces in every room.
I asked him what happened to the garage. He didn’t know there had been one. I told him I used to crawl up into the rafters and play and wait and pray and dream and hope. It was long gone.
We went outside and I showed him where it used to be. I showed him where a huge oak tree used to stand. There was a Mimosa tree in the lower yard but both of those trees were gone.
He said a psychic had come by for a massage and she told him that a diamond had been lost in the yard. That was true. Mama lost her wedding ring in the yard and never found it. He said the psychic also said she “saw great sorrow attached to this house.” I guess so. It was the house where I killed my little brother and where my mama almost beat me to death.
We went back to the kitchen and he brought out a shoebox. He took things out one at a time. The first was a letter that I had written. The second was a “Workbasket” crochet book that belonged to mama. The third was a phone bill for $4.95. The last thing he took out was a picture of a horse. I had drawn it and there was a line coming from its hind leg, much like it would look if somebody had suddenly hit my arm. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, drawing that horse and mama came up behind me and slapped me. My arm jerked, hence the line.
I must have looked at those things a little too long and held them a little too close, because as he was gathering them up to return them to their box, he hesitated. He looked at me and said “you need to have these things.”
I have looked at that picture of a horse many times. I can distinctly remember drawing it. I loved horses then. I wanted to either be one or wanted a knight in shining armor to ride up on one and take me away.
This is a picture that was taken in front of that house. It was a happier time. That’s me on the right and that’s my little brother in the center. Since he was still alive and it obviously wasn’t winter, I would say I was three and he was two. (He died in January at two and a half.) That’s my oldest sister on the left and those are my daddys’ arms.
I wonder if I felt safe with his arm around me. Look at how my hand is ever so gently resting on his arm. I wonder if, when that picture was taken, my daddy thought he was going to have a wonderful life. I imagine he did. He had two daughters and what they say every man wants…a son…a son to carry on his name…a son to carry on his bloodline…a son who would inherit his legacy, be it a paltry sum of money or nothing more than his knowledge and memories.
In that instant…frozen in time…it was still possible.
In one tragic moment, I took that away from him and it changed both of our lives forever.
Had I only known what lay ahead.