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New Old Home

The demolition of my habitual thoughts is the first step I am taking in reconstructing myself. To refuse the automatic critique and anguish over a feeling, to combat the distrust in my own intuition, it seems rather contradictory. But the truth is that the depth of my own self is flooded with the dirty waters of generations’ past. How do I become a blank slate again?

To strip the molding and sheet rock down to the studs, it’s a test to sanding down trauma to smooth the foundations of identity.

The house I grew up in has been the only house I’ve known, but the remodel when I was thirteen embedded my childhood beneath it. It used to be a cream, nearly yellow, colonial sitting atop a hill in the middle of the woods. The yellowing turned a mossy green around the exterior door frames, where the spiders owned the corners, and we left them alone. There was no front porch, just a red door flush to the face of the house, like a kid’s drawing. I only saw this red door in photographs years later, the porch was the first upgrade.

The floors were a deep chocolate brown, the penny-sized black nails patterned every few alternating planks. They creaked with every step, as if there was no ground below, just panels aligned like a suspension bridge over lava. The kitchen cabinets matched that same tone brown, with white plastic knobs on their corners. This was a kitchen I was too young to remember, but what would now be every interior designer’s dream gut job. Through the space between the stove and the hood, the red brick fireplace built the family room corner, jutting out diagonally a quarter way through the room. In it held a small wood burning stove that burned orange every winter night. I used to lay my back on the floor with my feet up to it, holding them there until I couldn’t bear the burning heat any longer.

Looking back, I miss the darkness, the claustrophobic coziness that existed, whether that be from the dated floors and 90’s furniture or from the haziness of my childhood memories. My ability to remember only truly exists surrounding the trauma, my brain already took care of the rest.

At 23 I’m trying to go back to where I was as a child: swinging so high on the swing set that the tension escaped the chain at the very highest point and I was floating in midair, for a brief moment in time, waiting to fall back down. I’ve been falling for a while now, and the chain has jolted me back to consciousness at the abrupt return of gravity; I need to pump some more so that I can float again.

That swing set that transported me sat in the middle of a bright green oasis of weeds, a forsythia-encircled meadow that lit up in the sun, my magical, kid-only backyard that provided an entrance into a new world. It’s now a blacktop driveway with a three car garage sitting on top of it.

If it were my way I would have repainted, sanded and re-stained, and rearranged some furniture. Just as with this reconstruction of myself, I can’t touch the studs, I can only sand them down to reveal their natural beauty. Where did the authenticity go? Where did the history go? The memories? They’ve been transformed to a re-sellable property for a greater profit. And my brain has eliminated the rest of the pain, mimicking the feeling of that original cream house to have never existed.

I’m in a place now where I must rebuild that old house, from the outside in. Maybe I’ll start by letting that mossy green grow out from the corner of the door frame, let it cover the whole façade and then the entirety of the exterior. Let it return to its natural form, to its deepest core, all the way down to the studs that seep deep into the ground holding steady the frames that become the roof that becomes the chimney that looks up to the sky.