I was walking in the house where I grew up. No one lived there now. It would be demolished soon. My youngest brother was going to tear it down because he had just built his new house beside it. This was the last time I could walk it in. I was not sad. Actually, I felt great relief that it would soon be destroyed. It had not been a happy place.
My mother was a screamer. Her screaming was hateful and directed at me, so I was sure she hated me. I did not know as a child, that it was not me that she hated. She hated the life she had had to endure without knowing why. Only in recent years had I realized that her mother had been so profoundly depressed that she could not function as a mother. She was still the little girl of eight whose mother had just died and she had been abandoned by the rest of her family to take her Momma’s body back to Kansas to bury. She was too sick to travel. That loss and abandonment remained with her for the rest of her life.
As a small boy, I knew little and understood less.
I just knew the hate around me that was directed at me in my mother’s anger. I realized, at age two, that my existance was the cause of her pain, but I did not know how to end it. In the next ten years, I learned ways to remove myself, but most methods were not satisfactory. Either they involved more pain, or a mess I was sure I would have to clean up if I failed. I couldn’t bear the thought of failing at that as well as failing in all the work she demanded and to be done to her unique specifications. Only two solutions were acceptable – just going to sleep forever! One required money for sleeping pills, which I did not have nor could I get. The other was gas.
We had gas in the tank outside for heating the house. The house was the problem: as big and drafty as it was, how could enough gas be held in one place to kill me? I could not solve that problem, so I lived.
Now, I walked in this old and empty house with relief that it would no longer exist. It had been my prison and place of torture in many ways. I noticed a line going down a wall that I did not remember. Had by brother already begun the demolition? It was as wide as my finger, so I idly ran my finger down the groove it created. Half way down, my finger caught on a kind of latch. Intrigued, I gave it a slight tug. To my surprised the wall began to open. Here was a hidden door! Wallpaper had covered it to look like the rest of the wall. It was a pattern I remembered my mother picking out.
Cautiously, I pulled open this unknown door.
I could dimly see space with a floor that looked secure, so I walk in, curious and intrigued. What was this hidden space in the house I knew every inch of after cleaning it repeatedly all during my childhood?
Empty hallways and rooms led from one to another. They were usable, but unused rooms. Dust was thick on the floors, so I knew they had never been used. They were spaces we didn’t know that existed right beside us! This was astonishing and bewildering. We did not have to be as cramped as we were in the rest of the house. This space was as large as the rest of the house, if not larger! How could we have missed it? Why didn’t we know about these rooms? I did not understand.
Then I woke up.
I knew immediately what those hidded, unused rooms were. They were the possibilites and opportunities that could have been part of my childhood, but were not – because my mother never imagined they existed. They were the good times we could have had, the joy that might have been. They were the life that was possible, but unknown and unrealized.
It all made sense.
In the house I built for my children, I tried as much as possible to build plenty of open doors and we have enjoyed each other far more than I had imagined possible as a child. They are sure of my love. I, also, never imagined I could be loved as much as they love me.
I think I’ve done something right.