Deep cleaning I find an envelope with photos. Black and white matte. I took them several years ago with an old Canon SLR. I was still married. My parents hadn’t gone through the divorce and re-marriage. They still lived in the house in Kearns. The basement has recently been re-carpeted, there are new white baseboards and a narrow shelf extends around the room, midway up the wall. It’s an empty space except for a recliner and my father sitting in it. Several pictures are from the roof, where I spent most of my teenage years. The swamp cooler still a bit rusty, the aluminum frame too thin to sit on. In the backyard the maple tree is enormous. The branches fill the upper two thirds of the photo, the trunk not any wider than I am. The lawn had recently been mowed. The fences separating us from three neighbors were still standing, parts only just. There’s a photo of my bedroom window taken from the back yard. Water stains between the panes make it impossible to see inside. The second floor patio is still ready for its funeral. Boards split, every nail bent and red. And from the front of the house: the two step cement stoop, the simple door with its simple knob. A split level. The window, bottom right, is the basement. The window above that, the living room. Bottom left, the bedroom I once shard with a sister, maybe Robyn, maybe Amy. Probably Robyn. Above that, my parents room. When I slept with my sister in the room downstairs, I would have panic attacks before bed. My hands would seem to enlarge into parade-sized balloons. The room would expand until the door seemed out of reach, and I would run upstairs to sleep, somehow, with my parents who already shared a mere full-sized bed. Eventually they kept a sleeping bad by the bedside, and I would sleep in that.
That was my home twenty years ago. At least twenty years. Not long for some folks, but at forty, that’s half my life. And since then I’ve wandered. I went to college and lived in a dozen apartments. I married outside love because I didn’t know what that was. I lived with in-laws until their bodies became like mounds of broken rock or smooth clay. I lived in China and then St. George. I left my marriage and lived with my parents. And now I’m renting a room, maybe 90 square feet in a home that isn’t mine, and doesn’t belong to the couple renting the room to me either.
And now my own body …
It was once a home when I had no home. Foreign to me now. I’ve remodeled, repainted, rearranged space, installed two small love sacks. But it isn’t the home in Kearns. Not the split level, and not the boy’s body. And even that kid’s body was never really home. It was never right. But at least I had the house and my sisters. My mother and father. I had a home in my family.
And that, like everything else, is changing. Like those illusions at night I had as a child, the walls of my family seem to be expanding, retreating, and I still run to catch up with the door before it’s too late.