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My Home

After hours of driving, I find myself standing at the top of the long driveway of 3548 Gravelly Beach Loop. Eyes closed, I try to picture what I am about to see. With the image sitting happily in my mind, I start down the driveway towards the world of my childhood.

Gradually I pick up speed, unable to control my legs on the steep hill. When the end of the driveway finally comes into view, my feet skid to a stop. My eyes closed as tightly as they could, working to remove this new picture that was now seared into my brain. It seemed as if it was painted on the inside of my eyelids. I forced back the tears that threatened to spill out of my scrunched eyes. One breath, than another and my eyes opened again. Seeing it a second time didn’t take away from the shock. It was a numbing pain that enveloped my whole body. My steps made dull thuds as dirt sifted between my shoe and the ground. There was no familiar sound of crunching gravel and clanking rocks. Only now did I realize that the smell of pine trees mingling with an ocean breeze was missing. The entire place felt wrong.

I walked to the edge of the small cliff, what used to be my back yard, and looked out across the unchanged ocean. It spread for mile upon mile, with the faint shadow of land in the distance. My house had always left that permanent: unchangeable. Regardless of what my adolescent mind thought, the house, and all the property around it was leveled and gone.

My feet dragged me slowly closer to the spot that the towering, triple A-frame had stood. Each step sent small clouds of dirt billowing out around me. When I finally reached the place where my house should be, the bottom of my jeans were barely visible beneath the thick layer of dust that clung to them. The emptiness around me was changing my pain from simply numbing, to throbbing; Memories began to fill my head.

First to come were memories of the kitchen: the front room of the house. It was one of the ugliest places a person could find themselves in. It was always clean but that didn’t make it any more attractive. The carpet (yes, the kitchen had carpet) was a fluorescent orange, yellow, and red floral print. The cabinets were so completely beaten up that it was a miracle they still moved on their hinges. The “70’s” baby blue stove sat against the left wall alongside the slightly modern washer and dryer. Mother always said that she wished a woman had been involved in making the house plans so that the laundry room was not part of the kitchen, and the kitchen was not the first room a person saw when entering our home. As a young girl, these things never mattered to me. What did matter was the way the kitchen smelled when my mom would make dinner every night. It mattered to me that my family sat together at our sturdy, cherry wood table, and ate dinner. It mattered that out the wall of windows that surrounded the windowed front door, I could watch seagulls swoop down into the lagoon, racing to catch the clam they had just attempted to crack open. As the years passed, my parents upgraded things. First, a shiny, white stove, then strong, ivory cabinets, followed by cherry wood flooring that perfectly matched my mom’s beloved kitchen table. Finally, the bench was made. My dad and mom together labored over a wraparound, upholstered bench to eat breakfast at, with room for all the family. I loved those red, chicken covered benches.

My memories flowed into the living room. For half of my life, that room was a work in progress. Originally, the walls looked like they belonged to a flat Lincoln log house. Then they were covered by sheetrock and left like that for a very long time. I was constantly told that it was going to get painted, but it didn’t happen until our last few months in the house. In that room, we went through at least 4 different TV’s and couches, each holding their own memories. My family once was sitting on smooth, leather couches watching the television when my mom slowly walked out of the bathroom and just said “I’m pregnant.” Our whole family started cheering and jumping around. After that, we needed to buy our third replacement couch. Behind the couch was an even more magnificent window wall than in the kitchen. It was the height of both our first and second stories combined (the living room is the only room in the house that doesn’t have a second floor, just a balcony over it). There were 13 windows in all, 8 square and 5 triangle shaped. Through those you could see the bay, framed perfectly by the trees outside. The ever-changing blue water always in exactly the spot it should be.

The memories in my mind walked up the stairs and into my old room. So many things happened here: seeing deer eat our apples in the backyard, me sitting behind my dresser eating peanut butter stolen from the pantry, and sharing my room first with Ashley, and then with Ashley and Shae both. The memory that stood out the most though, was one very recent: The freshly lavender painted room was empty. The floor was the same as it ever was, full of splinters and extra scratchy. The window still had blue tape around the edges from the painting that had happened earlier that week. I held a Stephenie Meyer book in my hand and with no bed, and no chair to sit on I went and sat in the middle of the hard floor. I plugged the hot pink headphones into my ears, which were blasting Leona Lewis’s “Bleeding Love.”

I was pulled out of that memory slowly as the neon green headphones that I was wearing now started the same song from long before: bleeding love. Having endured all that my mind could handle, my body crumpled to ground and shook with endless sobs. Another puff of dust circled around me as if it were trying to make me feel worse. These memories wouldn’t stop throwing themselves around in my head; Austin jumping off the roof into a dog kennel because he thought it was a trampoline, Shae going for her first swim out in the bay. Cody pretending he was mayor of “Brockville” and finding a tall stump in the woods just so he could have a podium, Ashley coming into the house multiple times a week covered in dirt from head to toe, my mother teaching me how to do flips on the trampoline while my dad and his father built the tree house that survived many years of Washington weather.

A crack of thunder was my savior, shattering the memories and jolting me to my feet. The Washington rain was coming faster than I had expected. I started to shuffle me feet away from the place my house should be. I knew I needed to leave but I just couldn’t. I felt that if I left, all those things I remembered would disappear forever. As I took one last reluctant look behind me, I noticed a spot of color sitting down the bank, near where my tree house once stood. There, half buried in the foliage that was just barely over the property line, was my basketball. I felt so silly, crying about a battered, blue basketball, but it wasn’t just a ball. It was my last piece of home: my little spark of happiness. I leaned out and over the bank, carefully picking up the fragile ball. Carrying this torn and weather beaten ball, I had the strength to walk away. With one swift glance over my shoulder, one last tear rolling down my cheek and one last memory from the place that always will be my home.





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