What am I Supposed to Do With My Childhood Home?
I don’t think I can sell a member of my dysfunctional family.
This is a story about a dead house that I suspect wants to live again. This is a story about a house with peeling stucco, overgrown jasmine with no flowers, roof tiles in the line of fire of falling palm fronds. This is a story about a house that once had a beautiful, original tiled bathroom unique to California Spanish-style houses, and now has a bathroom that could easily be in a Ramada Inn, after my mother “redesigned it.”
This is a story about a house with gates falling off hinges, and a fence that fell down under the weight of a runaway vine. It actually fell over, which was quite a sight. I should have taken a photo, but I was busy marveling of the metaphor of it all. This is story about a house that was abandoned, even while my parents lived in it. This is my childhood home.
I realized at an early age that my parents did not take care of this house, and sometimes even assaulted the house. As a kid, and later an adult, I tried to fight for it. I begged my mother not to repaint the living room every two years, adding layer upon layer of paint onto original plaster walls.
Another battle: the carpet in my childhood bedroom and the hallway was indoor-outdoor carpeting. (Yes, really). My mother installed it before I was born because she apparently thought children (me, in this instance) would destroy normal carpet. When I noticed that my friends’ homes had normal floors, I tried to explain to my mother how insane it was to have indoor-outdoor carpeting indoors, one step away from Astroturf.
I tried to explain that this made our family seem mentally unstable. I had a feeling that this design choice was an indicator of something fundamentally deeply wrong in our family, but I also still operated under the assumption that adults knew something I didn’t. But I’m pretty sure I got over that mythology faster than other kids.
It was a never-ending war. The house and I were on one team, my mother was on the other, my father on the sidelines. I was in my early thirties when my mother announced plans to redo the main bathroom. I immediately had a cold feeling in my stomach, as if I had swallowed ball bearing.