Saturday, May 16, 2015

The House that Built Me.

“… Won’t take nothing but a memory from the house that built me.”
– Miranda Lambert

An errant mitten. Scraps of paper scattered with numbers and notes and notations. Mozambique currency from a trip long distant. Pay stubs. Finger paintings and accolades and batteries covered in years of corrosion.

Sifting through the years, deciding what remains and what is forever left behind.

For a decade this has been our home. Ten years ago I watched and listened as my husband’s brothers in blue carried boxes and furniture through its door, just one week after I walked through the ER doors to find them gathered around his gurney in an adrenaline-and-testosterone-fueled huddle as the doctor closed ribbons of flesh and muscle flayed open in pursuit of justice and public safety. Ten years ago I chased my barely toddling son through the empty halls around boxes and appliances, my daughter heavy inside me. 

Three years later, I held their tiny hands and walked through its door and into the flashing lights beyond it.

It is a beautiful home, perfectly placed in a quiet neighborhood surrounded by desert mountains that are breathtaking after the summer storms. I’ve spent a lifetime here, rocking my children to sleep and holding them while they cried. I’ve torn their hearts apart and invested every moment of the years that followed fighting to repair the gaping wound I left in their hearts. I went to sleep whole and woke in a thousand pieces in these walls. Alive with tears and anger and laughter during the day, the house watched me gather the scattered pieces of me in the quiet nights.

It is a beautiful home. 

But although it was his for three and mine alone for seven, it has never truly been mine. We are happy and content and giggles are floating like fairy dust through its hallways on this rainy afternoon, but I never feel anything more than that I am booked for an extended stay in a well-appointed and spacious hotel where I am reservation agent, doorman, housekeeping, resident chef and manager all at once. But where I once resented this home, I have come to a gentle acceptance that these walls protected me and, in their cold detachment, pushed me away to rejoin the world and live again.

Someday soon, someone will walk through its door for the first time. They will see their own happiness and laughter and love in its walls, and they’ll love it for the life it will give them. Someday soon we’ll walk through its door for the last time.

And I’ll love it for the life it gave us.

Monday, May 11, 2015


“You say you are trying, but you don’t ever mean it. You don’t care what I want!”

“Do you think this is fun for me?!”

Watching her hazel eyes well up with tears, I sink to the ground in a pool of my own tears and regret. She is too young, perhaps, to know how deeply her angry words stab into an open wound of personal failure.

It has been a long and lonely path and I’m putting all my chips on table and gambling on happiness. I’m excited and terrified all at once, a simmering pot of stress that occasionally breaks free and singes the ones I love. 

Their sting is my searing pain.

It won’t be long before she no longer touches my cheek as we sit under the stars in her bedroom and wonder about fairies and before he no longer tells me about the adventure he’s discovered inside the pages of a book. With each passing year I feel a profound sense of personal shortcoming that they will never know a childhood with a father. They will have the one I created for them, with all of its raw edges and soft moments. Its adventures and its voids. 

For all the happiness and joy we’ve found, for all the love I’ve wrapped them in, they still wish for the one piece I have yet to give them. Maybe they want it because they don’t ever remember having it. Maybe they want it because, with few exceptions, everyone else has it. Maybe they want it because they want me, after so much time and so much loneliness, to be loved because they understand that my own happiness bleeds over and around them.

As the sun begins to set on a day meant to celebrate everything I have tried to be for them, I brush my own ache away to soothe hers and she wraps her arms around me and I feel her soft cheeks against my neck the way she has done so many times before.

“We just want you to be happy, Mommy.”

“I am happy, lovely girl.”

Because of you.