I remember my bedroom from childhood. It wasn’t large, but felt big enough. The orange shaggy carpet always felt soft and smelled slightly musty as I lay on the floor listening to sad love songs of the 80’s. The metal mini-blinds made a tinkling noise as I twisted the clear plastic rod that opened or closed them. There was a large pink chair in the corner of the room, snatched up at a church garage sale. It was usually covered in clothing and stuffed animals. I rarely sank into it, even though it was intended to be my reading chair. The large closet built into the wall that was intended for storage, became my bed, surrounded by shelves full of books and Christmas lights that made it feel warm, and soft, and easy to fall into. Every night I would lay in wait to hear those knocks on the wall that signified Katie was just on the other side of the far wall, knocking our secret code that told me she loved me. Every night I waited for those knocks, and every night, I would eagerly knock back, indicating my love for her too. In the summer I would lay there under a simple flowered sheet and listen to the sound of swamp cooler in the hallway. In the winter I would bundle up under heavy covers and watch the snow fall outside my cracked blinds. As I grew older I would wait to hear the familiar creak of the second step from the top, that told me my sister was home from her date, or my parents had finished their movie and were coming to bed. The floor was usually covered in clothes, shoes, books, and anything else that could easily get lost. I lost count how many hours were spent attempting to clean that room, how many friends came in and out of it, how many tears were shed in that bed, how many Bop posters hung on those walls, first the innocent Fred Savage, and eventually graduating to the likes of Luke Perry and Jason Priestly. That room was my haven. Messy or clean, it was mine.
I remember laying awake endless nights. The fear of the dark and of scary men and bad things that kept my brain active into the early light of morning. I remember the first edges of panic I ever felt in my life, my eight year old brain had no way of managing it. I remember the tears. I remember standing beside my parents large water bed, watching my dad sleep, hearing my mom’s soft snores, as I shook him awake with my small hands. I remember his arms around my small body as he carried me back to bed. I remember the feel of his strong and capable hands on my back, rubbing and calming my fears until I felt the edges of the panic melting into sleepy oblivion. I remember hearing his voice as he prayed my fears away.
My sister’s room was just next door. Her walls were white and covered in little primary colored flowers. It was always clean, meticulously so. Everything had its place and it stood beside my room in a stark contrast, our rooms, a small glimpse into our personalities, hers calm and organized mine chaotic and messy. How many hours did she spend trying to help me understand the merits of calm and organized? In our junior high years her walls were covered in handmade posters screaming the name Joe in different colors and fonts. Her first boyfriend, your typical all American kid, blonde hair blue eyed Joe.
My house, full of laughter and light, people and noise, was safe and peaceful. I remember cold fall nights laying on my stomach in the living room – the orange velvet couch beside me, my dad in a chair, book open in his hands, his voice creating voices for Frodo and Sam and Gandalf, the brown carpet in front of my eyes, the world Tolkien so carefully crafted coming alive in my humble living room. And the people, the people who came in and out of the house, the incredible people I’ve had the privilege of knowing in my life. I remember the night we were pulled from our slumber as the street outside turned into a river and drove away from it, hoping for the best.
I remember looking up into the large branches of the tree, seeing my dad up there amongst the leaves, hammering and nailing away, and before the treehouse even came into being, standing on the platform that would be the floor of that house, looking out over the neighborhood, feeling the fear of that height without walls to protect me.
I remember climbing the cherry tree, walking along the garden fence and falling into the bristly raspberry bushes, swinging as high as I could go on the swingset, laying out on a towel, allowing my skin to become the perfect color of golden brown.
That house symbolized the only life I ever knew. When I was 17, I watched as the for sale sign was posted in the front yard. When I got into the loaded car, headed to Michigan and a I life I didn’t know, I said goodbye, and two weeks later it was sold. I never truly came home again.
Years have passed. That house still looks the same. It’s missing the treehouse, but it’s still my childhood home, it still sits on that corner and occasionally I drive by and remember the childhood days spent there, in the safety of that home, that neighborhood, and that place in time.
I remember all the moments, including the ones where I dreamed of him, the man who would someday be mine. I didn’t know what he would look like or smell like or feel like in my arms, but I wanted so badly to believe he was out there somewhere dreaming of me too. For a long time I prayed for him. I hoped for him. I tried to imagine the life he was living somewhere out there without me. I wondered what his dreams and hopes were. I wondered if I already knew him or if he was someone I had yet to meet.
I’m home again. Only this time I’m 35.
My reality doesn’t include childhood and teenage dreams. It is full, full of two active boys and my concerns and worries about them. It is full of figuring out what I’m supposed to be doing. The man I dreamed of in my teenage years when I knew nothing of responsibility or real fear, has come into my life and gone from it. After safely tucking my kids into bed at night, after kissing their foreheads and wondering about their dreams, I retire to my room. The walls aren’t covered in posters of actors, there is no comfy reading chair or twinkle lights that lull me to sleep. My sister isn’t just in the next room, she’s in the next town, putting her own children to bed, talking with her husband, making plans of her own. My parents are just down the hall, but I wouldn’t think to wake them with my fears anymore. My father’s arms are no longer enough to rid my mind of its fears. But, I’m home. It’s safe. It’s comfortable. It’s all I need right now. But, the nights are hard. I lay awake, listening to the rush of the nearby trains, the muffled cries and snores of my boys, and my thoughts. It’s almost like I’ve come full circle, and yet I have the baggage of sorrow and the wisdom that comes with age and a broken heart. I am no longer that 17 year old girl who dreamed of her prince and who hoped her house wouldn’t sell.
But sometimes, I think of him. Whoever he is. Wherever he is. I have to hang on to the hope that teenage girl had, that my life will once again be full, and that I will find love. I sometimes find myself praying for him, whoever he is. I pray I will find him and I pray he will find me. I pray he will love me in all my flaws and frailty. I pray he will love my children. I pray I will love his, if they exist. I am not a child, but sometimes those dreams from childhood live on, even with all my adult conditions. I lay in my room, in my parent’s house, surrounded by safety and security, and I hope for my future.