Old House

Prompt: The moment you felt like you grew up

I grew up in a hundred year old house. The place was not upgraded, which meant it was never boring. The old bathroom had two doors, on opposite walls, so if you forgot to lock both you could have someone walk through right in the middle of a bath. The way the roofs sloped meant that you had to duck at just the right moment. I knew how to avoid the creaking under my feet, how long the hot water would run, and the most creative ways to kill spiders.

The whole place was crumbling around us. First the pipes leaked, and as soon as that was fixed the heater broke, and then a bat would be in our living room. At night, the walls would groan, and I worried that I would fall through the floor clutching my bed as I went. It was exhausting how many new problems an old house could have in a month, an always changing landscape made even more difficult by my mother’s incessant need to paint over the cracks in Crayola fashion. In rebellion, I staunchly decided to repaint my room brown. I’ve never been very rebellious.

Besides our weird house, I thought we were boring. Middle class, no drama, and white, all the kids got A’s and there was dinner on the table. My extended family had the loud uncles and sweet grandmas, but I thought that was normal too. It took a while for me to see how my family was like my house: dressed up in pretty colors, but all a little broken underneath the paint.

I was eleven when I found out my dad had a brother. One day, I picked up the phone and found out that there was an uncle that I had met when I was six months old who had just walked out of our lives after that. I had never heard his name before, and my dad must not say it much either, as evidenced by the surprise on his face when I handed him the phone. What kind of brother never calls, never comes home? My mind whirled. I had wanted family to be interesting, but this kind of intrigue was not what I had in mind.

Growing up is about peeling away the layers. Parents are no longer superheroes and eventually everyone sees their dad cry. Pain is uncovered, and slowly everyone is forced out of the blanket fort and into the real world. My life revolved around my boring, middle class family. It was sturdy, it was shelter. This new uncle scared me, and in doing so he forced me to grow up. Family had been a place I resided in, never stopping to support the old walls or taking any burden for myself. Now, I was becoming part of the foundation, helping support the people I love.

The truth was my family and my identity was becoming as complicated as my house. It wasn’t boring and middle classs — till white though, that isn’t changing. It comes with strings and commitments that are frightening, and it comes with skeletons and tears. Family can be difficult and it can hurt, something that seems unavoidable when love is involved. I can walk away from family to try to save myself from pain and messiness, call once a year, hide my face behind the miles between me and their phone. Instead, I’m learning about who I am through the tragedies and triumphs of each of my relatives knowing that those people will share mine as well. Family may be crazy, broken, and jagged, but it still made me who I am, and I accept it for all its colorful flaws.