As I turned down the driveway, I was almost shocked at how instinctively I guided the car. It had been more than a decade since I had last followed this path, made these turns, and I was barely old enough to be driving then. And yet, my body remembered. My hands moved without me.
Just past the gate, I saw daffodils starting to bloom and my heart ached. Daffodils had been blooming by that gate for years before my mother had told me why she planted them.
“Here they start to bloom in February. This way, you will always have flowers to enjoy come your birthday.”
I don’t remember what I had said to her in return.
Past the gate and the daffodils, my father’s workshop came into view. Days upon days of my summers and weekends had been spent between those walls, helping my father with his woodworking projects. Days upon days had also been spent helping him expand those walls. The addition looked as aged as the original structure now, the wood weathered.
Beyond the workshop, the driveway began to curve before opening into a straightaway lined with azaleas, bare for now, but I knew they would be exploding with color come summer. Someone had cared for them well. Behind the azaleas, lining the woods, would be where the honeysuckle would bloom. The air smelled sweet here in the summers.
One more quick turn opened up to pastures and on a small hill, the house I had grown up in.
I pulled off to the side, joining several strange cars, made stranger
for the fact that I had never seen so many at one time here before. I stilled the engine and focused on breathing.
“Are you ok?” Shannon asked me. I realized with shock that she had laid her hand on my arm in comfort and I had barely felt it. I smiled.
“Yes. I’m ok. It’s just strange being back, that’s all.”
“We don’t have to do this.”
“I know. But I’m a glutton for closure. Or maybe punishment? Anyhow, let’s go in.”
As we stepped out of the car, a beaming real estate agent came bustling toward us, all teeth and glossy flyers.
“Hello ladies, how are you today? Such a lovely day to see such a lovely home! It’s a beautiful 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath, and as you can see, sits on a gorgeous piece of land. The workshop and barn are included in the price. Only two previous owners, and very well taken care of! Please feel free to look around, walk the grounds, and don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions!” All of this sounded as if it had come out in one breath.
I took a flyer, but I barely glanced at it. I didn’t need it after all.
I stepped into the cool entry way, and into my past. Ghosts of Christmas trees and strewn wrapping paper, of lazy evenings watching tv and me begging to stay up for one more hour. Family dinners overlooking the backyard and pastures, where the horses could sometimes be seen. My impatience as I stuffed dishes into the dishwasher at the end of dinner so I could run out to the barn, my favorite part of the day. Where my sister’s highchair had sat at the table, her giggles filling the air. Where that highchair had eventually turned into a big girl chair that she insisted on using before she was quite big enough. On through to the master bedroom, where I rarely spent time except when I snuck in, looking through all my parents' usual hiding places for presents, and on through to their bathroom, which I would often beg to use because of their giant jacuzzi tub.
I started up the stairs, and just managed to realize that they didn’t creak in all the same places they used to. Huh. Someone must have fixed that.
The landing was still lined with bookshelves, now filled with staged items rather than my father’s collection. I stepped into my sister’s room first. Gone were the cheerful childhood paintings on the walls, but if I closed my eyes, I could still see the shapes my mother had lovingly painted, all my sister’s favorite cartoon characters. She was always much more talented than I.
I turned, took a breath, and stepped across the landing to the room that was once mine. The movie reel in my head sputtered, became dark. The sweet memories started to turn sour.
It was here in this room where I stopped feeling like I belonged in this house. Where I stopped being able to sleep, and when I did drift off, sometimes hoped that I wouldn’t wake up.
Why is she doing this to us? We raised her well, why would she make this choice? God will punish all of us. The way people look at us now. ….go to hell…. ….won’t support her….she’ll just have to make it on her own…. Disgusting lesbian….
I was never sure if my parents knew I could hear them. But hear them I did. For months, my dark lullaby was hearing them tear me apart, curse me, blame me, and deny me. All for falling in love with the “wrong” person. No wonder I couldn’t sleep. A wonder that I survived.
It didn’t all happen when I was paralyzed in my bed upstairs. Months and months of talks, of taking me to church, of telling me exactly how terrible I was to my face. Months of demands to not tell my sister, because it was all just a phase that would blow over. Once, when my mother was out, my father threatened to leave her if I didn’t choose to be straight, and leave her with nothing at that.
Something I could never make them understand if that it wasn’t a choice at all. If I had any choice, it would never have been to live through the darkest time in my life at the hands of my parents. No one chooses that.
When I had come out to my parents, I had been nervous. But I had been repeating to myself for months what my mother had told me all my life: we will always love you, no matter what.
Once I told them, they simply said, break up with her and move on. This is just your first love, you’re confused. Yes, it will break your heart, but everyone has their heart broken. You will live, you will find the right boy, and this will all pass. They were right. My heart was broken. By the very people that had promised to love me, no matter what.
I left at 18 and never looked back. Until now.
This time, when I realized that Shannon’s hand was on my arm, I also realized I was crying. I turned and walked downstairs and out as quickly as I could, my head bowed to hide my face from the strangers. There were no ghosts for them here.
I went out the side door and headed for the barn, slowing only when I was far from the outlanders that I had to share this with. Shannon walked beside me now.
She knew it all, she knew it best except for me. Her family had treated me the way I had always hoped to be treated by mine. People who were once strangers that owed me nothing pulled me through the darkest time and didn’t let it claim me.
We reached the barn and looked out into the pasture. I turned to her.
“Thank you for coming here with me.”
“Of course my love.”
I turned back to look toward the house through the trees.
“It is a beautiful home,” she whispered. “It’s ok to still think of it with love and happiness. The bad times don’t negate the good.”
“What if we could make more love and happiness here?” I said as I looked at her. “When I first asked to come here, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted. What good could I have gotten? But we’ve talked about buying; what if we do it here? We could rewrite the story of this house, bring love into it again, give it a different ending. The child that would sleep in that upstairs room would really know that we love them, no matter what.”
All of this too had sounded as if it had come out in one breath. A breath I’d been holding for years. I didn’t know that this was what I wanted until I had come back to stand in this place, to feel it again, and to know that I never wanted anyone to feel what I had felt. No one deserved to feel that heartbreak.
As she took my hand and laced her fingers through mine, I was filled with wonder and joy that I had lived through it all to experience this moment.
“That sounds perfect. Let’s go make an offer.”