I am arguing with my sister, screaming at her to NOT CUT THE VEGETABLES ON THE RUG ON THE FLOOR, THAT IS SO GROSS! and declaring I will not eat them unless she rinses them off. We’re in the house of our early childhood and she is chopping vegetables for a soup on the kitchen floor because she DOESN’T WANT ME TELLING HER WHAT TO DO and my mom has a headache, so she goes to lay down.
I wander around the house, as though I were taking inventory or cataloguing the paintings and hangings on the walls, remembering that this one was painted by my grandmother, and this one was a wedding present to my parents, and I walk into my mother’s darkened bedroom and go through her jewelry boxes, both of which came from Japan in the early ’60s. They used to play music but not anymore. Most of the jewelry is gone, sold to help pay for the divorce expenses.
My sister yells at me again to GET OUT OF MOM’S ROOM, YOU CAN’T COME IN HERE SHE’S MINE and I start to cry. I stumble into another room that never actually existed, only to find my father there with an appraiser, a corpulent woman with big hair who is wearing way too much makeup and pointy shoes. Ugh. He, also, is taking inventory, making note of the style in which the rooms are decorated and which furniture, which paintings, which photos and decorations HE will take. My mother does not want to see him, so I must follow in the wake of the pointy-shoed woman, fuming at my father for planning to take these things away. They are MOM’s NOT HIS. I am so mad. He is not wanted here – and then I realize that I am not wanted here either, that my sister will push me out to grieve with Mom alone. And the soup boils, neglected, in the kitchen that no longer exists.
My mom is coming for a visit later this week (yay!); she hasn’t been here in 3 years. My parents’ divorce is supposedly being finalized by the end of August, though not without ugly battles about money and property and what have you. There’s a lot going on in my mind, I guess, and it’s all coming out in my dreams. Most dreams I have had recently have been about my high school reunion, though frequently the people in the dream are preschool alumni, not high school classmates.
The house of our childhood was completely gutted 2 years after we moved. I saw it with my own eyes; it shrunk when all the internal walls were removed and I saw the flooring of the living room (once a porch), the kitchen, the bedroom and Laurel’s room and the other bedroom and the bathrooms all next to each other, tiny and neglected. I think all told, even with the addition my dad built when I was 5, the whole place was the size of our current flat. Looking through the windows of the gutted house where I grew up (lo these 15 years ago) I felt as though my insides had been removed. I cried and cried and my mom could hardly look. Laurel doesn’t even remember that house; we moved before she turned 3. I’m pretty sure the house no longer even exists. At the time it was being turned into the “home office” for the people who had bought the land and owned the villa they built on top of the razed house of our neighbor who used to mow his orchard nekkid.
For years I had dreams about driving up the road to our old house. We went up and down that 5-mile dirt road every day for the first ten years of my life, and I knew every plant, every bend in the road, every rock and tree and fence. For years after we moved, and even after I’d left for college, I’d have dreams about driving up that road, going around this bend and seeing that cow and crossing that cattle guard. I’d never get any closer than the hollow below the last big push to our driveway. I just couldn’t let myself see the house that wasn’t there anymore.
Over the last few years (since my parents have been separated and fighting over the divorce) I have had dreams every so often about the field, the driveway, the neighbor’s house and the orchard. But last night was the first time I’ve been inside that house since 1989. I think I can wait another 17 years before I return.