This is all a process. I pull back the canvas curtain to watch the leaves play and dance with their shadows. I write down the bits of beauty and connection found and try not to catalog discomforts. Here in my mother's house I am given the privelege of re-trial while running obstacle courses that are rutted with abuse. "I don't understand your trauma," Hadj tells me. We are snuggling in my old bed in my old bedroom. What I hear coming from his mouth sounds like some innocent wisdom. I too hardly understand my reactions.
We are at my parents' house in the northwest suburbs of Chicago now. We are here to work for a time, before we finish our drive west to Belfair, before snow locks us in. This house is nearly one-hundred years old. It has had three sets of owners, my parents being the third. They bought this house in 1988, after my father sold his Harley to his best friend make the down-payment. It was a fixer upper then and is something more full of potential for complete re-creation now. My parents do not have much interest or energy for material things. They crave memories, action, and events. They live for the road beneath their two wheels. They hate winters.
"Let's go embarass you," Hadj says to me. He is continually making me smile and reasurring me that we are actually having fun. It is up to me to make new the old patterns that are haunting this house in my mind. Like everything else, Hadj is here to help. We went through a small portion of the huge, unfinished basement of my parents' house last night. The area is composed of all things elementally "basement": musty smell, seeping water, decrepit cardboard boxes, antique spider webs, and 21 years of familial refuse and remains. We descend the wooden stairs and clear a space where we will empty boxes marked things like "Shana knick-knacks 2001" and "Shana's Stuff Do Not Toss."
September 30th was the last day in my golden studio apartment on Chicago's NW side. By the time we left the inviting light had been washed over with a dusty color my ex-landlord prescribed. We wondered how a studio apartment could seem smaller without furniture. The job I held, which helped me get and keep the apartment I loved, is a wisp of time gone now. Late in the night of the last day of September we pulled up to the garage at my parents' house and turned off our cars. The night air was damp and chilling. I had to jump around to keep from catching trembling shivvers.
We unpacked only what was needed for a night's sleep and carried it, quietly - not to wake my sleeping mother and father, up to my old bedroom. Once the bed was set down and covered, and once we had unwound enough to lay there, I became overwhelmed by my own ghosts and became terrified and wept. I experienced terror, that I would somehow become trapped and miserable the way I had been trapped and miserable in this place so many times before. It is not this house. It is not my parents or anything they did or did not do. What terrified me were the memories of depressions past and what I defended myself against was the untruth of history.
As I unearthed the first photographs I ever took (family vacation, 1991), eighth grade class photos, and junior-prom photos Hadj helped me look at myself. I began to look without judgement or recall. The shame left in pockets all over my body began their dissolution. He saw me in eigth grade and said, "you're a different person twice over now, aren't you?" I feared not changing when I was young. When I was beginning a descent to find and unearth myself I grew proud of how much I had changed. I was smug when I saw others who seemed to look the same as they had when we were young.
Rummaging around in old photographs, keep-sakes, and tzchockies is just a way of spending our time at present. We are here to make love real by working. There are still supplies to be purchased, preparations to be made, budgets to be worked out. This is the meanwhile.
I have always wanted to restore or reshape my parents' house for them. It is a beautiful old house and anyone with an interest can't not see the potential oozing out of the pine wood trim, brick fireplace, or small bathrooms. I am here to do pennance in a way. I will do the work to clear myself out, and to give some TLC to the bones of an aching old house. Hadj and I both love story and history. We marvel when our deja vu mingles and when our enigmatic patterns meet. We laugh at the coincidences of his constant bathroom rennovations and my recurrent sneaking misbehavior and assume we must be on the right path if we've dreamt all this before.