A house left behind, a good home life remembered
So I went home.
I wasn't sure why, exactly, but I went there, to the west-central Florida neighborhood where I grew up, back to the winding roads hugging a lake that once seemed like an ocean, past the ranch houses that went up in the 1960s and haven't changed much since.
I parked in front of the house -- my house. It was still white and burgundy, though the white walls looked dirty and the white-shingled roof was almost black with mold. The trees that flanked the end of the driveway, ones my dad and I planted ages ago, were still there, huge now.
It had been about a decade since I last saw that place. And for most of that decade, I had no desire to see it again.
You see, that house and I didn't end on the best of terms.
Growing up, it was a happy home, a sanctuary. I spent hours underneath an orange tree in the backyard, sniffing the sweet-smelling leaves. I'd crawl up a ladder and onto the roof to soak in the sunshine. I'd tromp barefoot through the garage and feel sawdust from my dad's woodworking under my feet.
I eventually left for college and started my own life, but I always came back to that house. I knew every corner, every step -- could close my eyes no matter where I was and walk through the living room, through the brown swinging doors to the family room, down the short hall to my bedroom and hear the hum of the air-conditioning unit outside my window.
But things changed.
Most family's narratives take a sharp twist or two, often in undesirable directions. Mine was no different and, when those twists came, they came hard; and I found myself back in that house, helping two of the people I loved most in this world sell off their belongings and leave the place behind, an empty shell.
There was no joy left in that house. It had fallen into disrepair and chaos. It felt dead, and I was angry. Angry that I couldn't control the narrative. Angry that there was nothing left to do but leave and drive off in the Florida heat.