Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Erica Place

Occasionally I drive by the house were it happened. It's not someone's home now. It's a business.

I've walked around the outside of it, acknowledging the changes and additions. In some ways it looks nothing like the house I lived in from the time I was 2 until I was 7. I don't get physically ill when I see it anymore. My head doesn't spin. Instead there is just a feeling of being slightly off kilter. I look like everything is fine, but in my head I have a little trouble staying in the present. There is a pull to the past, but not a past I want to revisit.

We went to dinner, my husband and I, at a little restaurant one block over from the house. And we talked about whether or not I want to go into the house again. I did, but not alone. 

After dinner we drove by the house. There were lights on. The front door was open. I could see people inside. I pulled into the parking lot (what would have been my front yard and gravel driveway). My husband looked at me and I nodded. He was out of the car and up the stoop before I had killed the engine.

He asks if we can come in. "My wife used to live in this house," he says. They are so warm and welcoming. Come in, come in! Introductions are made. The owner asks me questions about changes. Does the house look different? Was this part of the house when I lived here?

I am still wavering between past and present in my head. Getting my bearings. It is different and the same at one time. The living room is now a reception/office area. Doorways have been moved or enlarged. The garage is another room now. Additions have been added to accommodate the business. 

I look around and see it as it is now, but with an overlay of how it was then. The door used to be there. The couch went under those windows. The TV sat in that corner. The wingback chair there. The step down into what had been the dining room. 

The hallway, bedrooms, bathroom, and kitchen the same but different. Memories both good and bad flooding over me. 

I ask if the study is still there. It had been my father's with floor to ceiling bookcases and knotty pine walls. He says yes, but the pine's been painted over. We head to the back of the house. The door to what had been the patio and backyard. Where I sat with my sister the day Martin Luther King was killed, wondering if we were safe.

I turn and there it is. The same but not. The step down. The tiny hall/entry, and I pause. Just like I do in my memory before walking into that space. My stomach flips and my heart rises into my throat. That room. Why would I choose to go back into that room? 

My husband asks if I'm okay. I nod. The gentleman are talking and asking questions. Your father was a professor? What did he teach? American literature, I answer. Well, I have done some good writing in this room. Must be a good vibe here. I smile and nod, but he's wrong there is not a good vibe here.

I am standing by the French doors. The ones she kept watch through. There is the fireplace. The corner windows too high for anyone to see in. 

The room is creamy and warmly lit now, but it used to glow in a haze of reddish orange because of the pine and the curtains on the doors and window. Early American prints in orange and red and gold. Late afternoon sunlight filtering through as he molested me.

My heart is pounding. But other things are happening as well. The room is smaller than I remember. It is a lovely room now. Welcoming and inviting. Warm lamps and a leather sofa. A TV mounted about the fireplace. If I can remove that overlay, I can see that this is a nice place to rest and relax.

I ask if may open the French doors. It's a breezeway now. It used to open onto the patio and the backyard where my swing set waited. The yard is covered now with building additions. My sanctuary smelling of honeysuckle is gone.

We say polite things. Tell them how much we appreciate this opportunity. The owner tells me to stop by anytime. And I wonder if I will go there again.

Those rooms have been frozen in time in my head. The study is always filled with a glow, but now the room has an overlay. Office space. Smiling people. Cream walls and warm light. Perhaps, in time, the overlay will replace the past with an invitation to rest.

You may read more about the house and the study here, here, here, and here

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  1. Oh, my stomach hurts to learn of the horrors you've had to endure. May the God who can bind up the brokenhearted be your ultimate healer. Thank you for sharing your story.

  2. I am so sorry for what happened to you.


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