Maybe each of us drives by the house on Oakmont Drive occasionally. The house where my children were raised. The house where I was raised from the dead. But this time as I slowed the car down to look, my daughter next to me, there was a public auction sign. It was empty. I backed the car up and pulled into the driveway like I had hundreds of times over those eleven years. We looked at each other like two kids in a candy shop and decided to go look.
The spacious welcoming front porch seemed tilted even farther than I remembered as we climbed the uneven stairs. We peeked in the windows and saw the living room, dining room and what we called the music room adjacent to each other. All the walls and woodwork were white. The floors uniformly covered in beige carpet.
But in that moment in time I saw something different. I saw country blue woodwork and matching drapes. I saw flowered couches and scratched wooden floors that were so crooked you could drop a marble and watch it roll through the rooms. I saw every hand-cut Christmas tree in the corner. I heard children's voices and someone playing the old upright black piano. I saw two long-gone dogs at my feet. There were dozens of friends and family crowded in at Thanksgiving and New Year's Day around my grandparents' round wooded table.
I saw every knick-knack, rug, painting, and the wallpaper my mom and I had carefully hung in the dining room. My dishes were still in the leaded glass cabinets with a blue cushion I made on the window seat between them. The canary cage hung in the back corner and Oliver was singing his heart out. The French doors separating that room from the dining room were the ones I spent days stripping multiple layers of paint off the glass. My daughter and I stared in surreal wonder. Even with all that missing it was still so very familiar. It was home.
We walked around to the side yard and remembered mean old Mrs. Skinner yelling at the kids, and the dog getting maced by the mailman the day we moved in. In the tiny backyard there was an empty spot where the wooden swingset had been, built for the kids by their dad. My glorious lilacs were gone. The dogwood tree we planted as a memorial for our dog was gone. There were people in the house next door, but not my dear friend Jeanne, whose funeral I had attended a mere two months ago.
The basement windows were now opaque, but in my mind I could see the dim, dank room that held my son's first drum set, and the jacks we'd installed to hold up the sagging floor above. We couldn't climb the stairs inside but I could still see her pink bedroom walls, his blue bedroom walls. I could see all my books on the hand-built shelves that lined the hallway. I could hear myself crying in the extra room behind my bedroom or in the clawfoot bathtub with the water running, trying to cover the sobs.
I could hear children running through the house laughing from the games we'd play on family night. Then I saw their faces the day we sat in that living room and told them their lives were about to change forever.
As we got back in the car I could see my son and daughter on every first day of school on that front porch - new clothes and shoes, new backpacks and smiles, and I wanted it back. Oh, how I wanted it back. There were some days in that house that I would do anything to re-do or to erase from my memory. There are hundreds of days I would love to relive.
Then there was the day when I opened that same front door and saw a certain man - and I was looking at my future.