Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Empty House

It's a cold, dark, rainy December morning. It's winter break for me—a time of wandering through questions I never have time to entertain usually: who am I? what am I doing? I can feel myself gearing up for a writing project that's been with me a long time: a long essay about my mom and dad's house in Minnesota. The metaphorical weight of the house, now that it has been completely gutted, right down to the removal of walls, rooms, stairs and floors, is enormous. The house is a big empty shell, and I need to go in there. Still, the metaphor being so big, it's overwhelming.This is how the house used to look right after both of my parents died.

There's one regret I can't shake: that I never tore little pieces of the wallpaper off to save as memories. My mom was big into wallpaper. And quilts. And teapots. And Elvis. And cream of mushroom soup.

The house went into foreclosure after my dad died, and someone bought it. I almost went crazy trying to find out who it was. Apparently, it was a family with five kids, out-of-towners who no one knew.  I obsessed, Googled, tracked them down. I met them one summer when they were gutting the house. They let my sister Amy and me come in and see what they had done. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be because I harbored hope that at least someone who loved old houses was going to bring it back to its old glory.  

The couple divorced and left the house gutted and unfinished.  Here's what it looks like from the outside now.

It looks nice, sort of, but it's empty inside. Utterly empty. The couple and their five kids have moved out. No one lives there.

I'm going to live there for a while.