- Posted August 24, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Where is my home?
Not My Home
The house itself was a very bland, inoffensive white ranch type structure. It sat on more than an acre of land and no one passing by would have imagined what went on in there. They finally sold the house when I was about 50 years old. I hadn't lived in it since I was19, but this time what I felt was unambiguous. What I felt was exactly nothing---but not quite. I never had to visit my parents there again. I didn't have to struggle with the sleepless nights in my old room or hear my mother's voice from the kitchen.
In fact, for many years I had toyed with the fantasy of blowing it up, setting it on fire--driving by later to see the remnants of black char. There was nothing in that house I wanted--but there wouldn't have been, anyway. My mother never kept the old relics of childhood. There were no old report cards, kindergarten pictures or dolls. These things had been routinely discarded along the way, at my mother's discretion. The Barbie doll would just disappear, along with the mini dinosaurs I had collected from our class trips to the Museum of Natural History--and of course my diary--well there was nothing personal about that anyway. Not in my house.
Our home was atypical in 1950-60's America. My father was a Holocaust survivor, my mother a German Catholic who found the war fun and exciting. So much fun that she found herself knocked up by this Jew she started running with. A Jew that had been traveling through the war struggling to avoid the camps with a set of false papers concocted by an aunt with a typewriter. But of course, they never told us that. Their story was a revisionist history full of gaps and holes punctuated with a few landmark dates. Which I found out much later were mostly fake.
The thrill of Nazi Germany wore off quickly for my mother, not long after they emigrated to the United States. Maybe that's why she had to turn our home into a somewhat different scene of extreme conflict. Her personality defined our home and it became a symbol of her malignant and self serving personal needs.
An empty house is a blank slate. Comprised of no more than bricks and mortar, nails, two by fours, linoleum and carpet, it eventually absorbs the tone and fiber of the people who inhabit it. The joys of Christmas and birthdays, the moments when a parent might attempt to salvage a child's hurt feelings, laughter and conversation at the dinner table become embedded in the rooms of a house, transforming it into a monument to your life there. But when the events of your childhood are not happy ones, when your childhood was usurped by an angry and psychotic parent who was allowed to run rough shod with your soul, it's no more than a grim reminder of what you endured.
By the time they sold the house, I had reinvented myself into someone my parents barely knew. I had been through a lifetime of psychotherapy--the old hard drive had been replaced by a new one which gave me a legitimacy I had never had. My personal transformation was so great that we no longer felt like parents and child. My former self was a fading shadow, being steadily overtaken by someone new---someone my parents didn't know or recognize as their daughter. And while I was growing stronger, more self assured and certain of who I was---in spite of my mother's efforts to destroy me-- there was still that house. I could now talk back to my mother, I could defend myself from her assaults --I could get my car keys and drive away --not full of self reproach, guilt and conflict, but with the certitude that I was defending something valuable--me.
But the house remained--the scene of so much hatred and misery-- it just yawned at me. But, years later, I recognize that the little I did feel when the house was sold, was vengeance. I had triumphed and survived while the indecent home it had been had disappeared with its sale. It was once again a blank slate, ready to assume a new identity from its new occupants. While I had survived and emerged to become far greater than that---and very grateful to never again cross its threshold.