I’ve had a lot on my mind recently, so much that figuring out what to write about for my post, which was supposed to have been put up yesterday, has left me without words. I’m in Philly right now, in the house in which I grew up, and every time I come here, so much stuff comes up that many times I am left speechless. In this house, I revert into the child I once was. In this house I am the child that was not actually without words, but the child that felt silenced, the child that had “friends” but no friends, the child that always felt like an adult on the inside but had to play the child on the outside. In this house I am a child that was perpetually confused about other people’s motives, actions, feelings. In this house, I am a child that felt like she needed to protect everyone else, but who never felt protected. In this house, I am all of the frightened children who witnessed and experienced generations of violence and dysfunction. All in this house.
I don’t blame anyone for my feelings or my experience. I know for a fact that my brother does not feel like I do. Our experiences as children are shaped not only by what objectively happened to us, but by how we perceive what happened to us, by where our souls are in our spiritual maturation process. I own my feelings and my experience. All that being said, I hate this house. I wish my parents would move far, far away from it. For in every corner, behind every sofa, every chair, there is a memory. And while I am working to allow memories be just that – experiences in the past that dwell in the past – when I return to this house, new experiences begin to meld with old memories and the juxtaposition of the two threaten to overwhelm me.
And as my children roll around on the new blue carpet that used to be tattered red for all of the 23 years I lived here, and they make new memories with new bikes parked in the dining room where we used to park our bikes in the garage, I wonder if this house can ever fully redeem itself in my eyes. Can the new coats of paint cover the handprints on the walls that got me in trouble 20 years ago? Can the new carpet contain the negative energy of the lye that was thrown in faces, the punches that were lobbed at eyes, the belts that were swung at butts, the curses that were spat out of mouths that were supposed to love? Can the ceiling fans sweep away the hot air of resentment and bitterness? To me, they cannot. I feel it all over.
On Thursday I leave this house. But until my parents leave it, back to it I will always have to return. I pray that the memories my children have of this house are of sunshine and butterflies, bikes and toys, Nana and Papi, love and happiness.