I had never really noticed the floor. I spent ten years walking, stomping, skipping, dancing, and chasing my brothers down these halls and in these rooms, and somehow never appreciated the flooring. Looking at it now, I was overwhelmed by the amount of hardwood. It was a nice stain of color, probably some sort of light maple, scarred from chairs being dragged and toys being thrown. The carpet was far from soft; it had lived through many families, the color no longer resembled a pearly white with red and blue threads, but it’s the very carpet where I held my brothers, sang along with Barbie movies, and where the “imagination” that would grow into “improvisation” was planted.
I was gifted with what I saw and see as a perfect American-dream childhood. At four feet and some odd inches, my brothers and I were too small to see just how hard my parents worked for us. All we cared about were our lemonade stands, made from artificial powder kept under the counter, our after school thirty minutes of PBS, and if Mom might be making buttermilk pancakes on Saturday morning. Packages from our grandparents were mailed to our street address, Home Drive. Yes, my childhood home was on Home Drive, and it was ever true to its name, even now that that part of my childhood lives in my memories.
The blue paint on the exterior of the building was chipping. Square windows and a brick chimney distinguished the little house on Home Drive, located in between a motherly old lady’s one story cottage and a middle aged man in a two-story my parents whispered about. Across the street were a happily married, empty-nester, couple who had a dog as big as me when I was 8. Our back door had three locks: two that clicked, and one that slid. My brothers and I would sit and wait to hear the clicks and slide every day after school, because those meant that Daddy was home. The green couch, the one with the tear in the left cushion, perfect for hiding tiny treasures, was gone now. The princess posters and stuffed pets were missing from my room, the only noticeable trait were the pale yellow walls I had never liked until now, now that it was the only thing left to distinguish the room I used to call mine. And the kitchen, my mom’s 80’s style kitchen that my dad used to make grilled cheeses in every Sunday after church, was no longer filled with the tin signs I read while biting my nails until dinner time. The chalkboard cabinets were blank, the colorful messages erased and gone.
The night before, I had sat on my front steps and mustered all my spirit to remember how nice our new house would be, but I didn’t want to leave. A grand house on top of a hill was my mother’s dream that for some reason I couldn’t understand. Moving on to bigger and brighter didn’t settle as better in my stomach. I didn’t see the aging house my mom and the rest of my family was outgrowing when I stood out on the driveway, I saw my home. My childhood home.
Cardboard boxes were stacked high in a truck sitting in the cement driveway, the one I used to draw chalk suns, flowers, and “WELCOME HOME, DADDY!” signs on. I walked back into the home for the last time. The house was empty. So utterly absent. The house smelled abandoned. The air whispered of cleaning bleach and new paint to retouch the walls. I took a breath. There was no furniture, only dents in the carpet from the table legs and couch feet. The walls were stripped of all photos and TJ Maxx quotes, just an acoustic, haunting echo remained. I walked down the creaky hallway to my room and was struck with a realization, it’s small. Or maybe I was just bigger than I was yesterday? I didn’t know. Up until this point, my desire to stay had been strong. My family was in the car. Once I left, it would truly be a goodbye. I could’ve locked myself in the bathroom, an act I would have committed without a minute of thought a week ago. But I found I didn’t even want to anymore.
A home is only a home when your family and belongings are there to furnish it. Otherwise, it’s just empty floor space and blank walls.